More than 4,000 people, mostly members of the Yoruba community in Akwa Ibom State, have been rendered home following an early-morning inferno that razed about 200 houses in Iwoukpom community in Ibeno Local Government Area of the state on Friday.
Properties destroyed by the incident cannot be quantified but the distraught victims said they ran into hundreds of millions of naira.
A resident and native of the area Ukochio Okon told our correspondent that fire incident is a perennial occurrence in the fishing settlement.
“It happened last year; it happened year before last; even three years ago, we suffered it. Something should be done about it,” he said.
One of the victims, Mrs Victoria Udoh, said she was at a vigil in her church when her friend informed her on phone that her house had been burnt to ashes.
A mother of three children, Mrs Udog said she could not take out a pin from her burnt house when she rushed down from the church.
“The entire building was raised completely and I could not pick a pin in the house,” she lamented.
She called on the state government, public-spirited individuals, multinational companies and NGOs to come to their rescue, as she did not have room on her head anymore.
Udoh called on National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and State Emergency Management Agency (Sema) to provide relief materials to the affected victims to ameriote their suffering.
Mr Sunday Isokobo, Vice Chairman, Ibeno local government area described the inferno as a “serious disaster”, saying that it was so serious that nobody could come close.
“About 1a.m. this morning, I received a call from my brothers and sisters living in this fishing settlement at Iwoukpom, that there was a very serious fire disaster taking place here,” he said.
He explained that the the inferno completely raised down a lot of buildings and wooden houses and uncountable fishing equipment worth millions of naira.
Isokobo, however, said that nobody could give the cause of the inferno as at the time the reporter was filing his report, adding that no life was lost during the inferno.
He promised to give relief materials to the affected families to ameloriate the suffering of the victims and called on the state government, oil companies to come to the aid of the victims.
“We will give them relief materials to start with and think of permanent ways of giving them back hope, especially the fisher men who had lost their livelihood to inferno.
“It is a pity that the inferno also affected my father’s house; I am begging the government, donor agencies, international communities, oil companies to come to their aid,” Isokobo appealed.
The youth leader of Ibeno LGA, Mr Kingsley Asuquo expressed dissatisfaction with the inferno.
“It is pathetic and the people have lost everything; so there is no word that can explain the circumstances,” he cried out.
The leader of the Yoruba community, Mr Foli Ogungbemi, who is Special Adviser to the Chairman of Ibeno on none indigenes matters, said the entire place wss populated mostly by the Yoruba.
He said that when the incident happened the people were running for their safety and none could really know the cause of the inferno.