From Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
The occupants of No. 5, Osuma Street, Otumoye, in Onitsha, Anambra State, have been gnashing their teeth and counting their losses, following an inferno that destroyed a 10-room bungalow where they lived.
The fire, which occurred on June 16, at about 11am when the residents had gone out in search of their daily bread, consumed cash kept in the house, furniture and other household items.
In fact, the occupants have described the fire as an evil wind that devastated them without mercy. They lamented that they were now shattered and homeless.
As gathered, no life was lost. But the cause of the fire remains a mystery to the residents and neighbours, especially as the area has no electricity. The only woman in the house when the fire started said she was in her room praying when her little son came to call her attention to the raging fire.
It was learnt that, before firefighters came to the scene, the entire building was razed without the occupants removing any item.
The owner of the house, an 80-year-old widow, Mrs. Agnes Igabo, who is currently living at her daughter’s house, slumped upon receiving the sad news. She was said to have been revived by her neighbours.
She lamented that the fire destroyed her source of livelihood, which her late husband left for her and her children. She appealed for assistance from good-spirited individuals, corporate bodies, and for the federal and state government to come to her aid.
A resident of the ill-fated house, Mrs. Eucharia Odo, a widow with seven children, wept uncontrollably, saying that she lost her husband in the same place years back and now has been hit with another shocker of her life. She said she was yet to recover from her husband’s demise.
“I was at my place of business where I sell fruits when I received a phone call about the fire incident, but when I got home, I could not locate my own apartment because the fire razed the entire building.
“Nothing was removed from the room. I was living with my five children and two others, but none of us was at home when the fire started. Some of my children went to their place of work while others went to school when the fire started. It is so painful; we couldn’t remove even a pin from the house.
“I lost everything, my clothes, my children’s clothes, household property and even the cash I collected from people were burnt. It is only the cloth I wore to market that I have. The same thing with my children, who are still wearing their school uniform till this moment.
“This is rainy season, where will we put our head? We are homeless. We don’t have pot or any cooking utensil. We don’t have clothes or anything at all because the fire destroyed everything. I’m appealing for help from government and individuals so we can eat, clothe and have a place to sleep,” Mrs. Odo lamented.
Another victim, a physically challenged woman, Mrs. Rita Obiechina, who was living with her four children, lamented that she had been managing her petty business, including selling sachet water, to fend for her family despite her condition with only one hand, when the fire disaster struck.
She wondered what would be her fate henceforth, especially in this present economic situation in the country where the cost of living keeps increasing daily.
“How can I cope with this condition? Nothing to hold on to. No house, no cloth, no food, nothing; we lost everything to the fire.
“What I need now most is shelter, where I will be sleeping with my children to avoid rain drenching us. I need food. Please, I want government, through the various emergency management agencies, to come to our aid to reduce the suffering,” she said.
Another victim, Wasiu Adelami, said he was at his place of business when he got a phone call about the fire, noting that before he got home the house had been razed completely.
He said: “Those around tried to save some of the property but to no avail as the intensity of the fire did not allow them. I lost everything to the fire. I’m living here with my family and all our clothes and other valuables were destroyed. I need support to feed and look for another house to rent.”
Other victims, Rita Eze, Nnenna Odo, Judith Eze and Chinenye Ugwuoko, who are single ladies living at the boys quarters, said they also lost valuables, including money.
Chinenye Ugwuoko, who trades at Main Market, Onitsha, said she packed into the house barely a year ago, and was today left with nothing as a result of the inferno.
Also Judith Eze, a petty trader, said that she lost all the money she earned the previous day, which she kept in the house, to the fire.
The victims have appealed for support from government and individuals to provide shelter and clothes, saying that they were not in a position to help themselves.