Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
Tragedy struck in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, on Wednesday afternoon as fire razed at least 30 shops on the same line on the Lebanon Street, Dugbe Alawo and destroyed goods worth millions of naira.
Mattresses, clothes, household items, eyeglasses, decoration materials, generators, and electronics were among the goods destroyed by the inferno in the affected shops.
Three persons were said to have sustained varying degrees of injuries due to the fire that led to confusion and apprehension in Dugbe, Ogunpa, Ekotedo and their environs. A Toyota Matrix car parked by the roadside in front of one of the razed shops was completely burnt.
Although the source of the fire has not been confirmed, an eyewitness, who preferred anonymity but displayed his wares by the roadside said the inferno was caused by the negligence of a welder, who was working in one of the shops, adding that the fire started from the shop.
The inferno, he stated, later spread to other shops and destroyed goods worth millions of naira before the arrival of fire service.
Eyewitnesses said despite the order by the state governor, Seyi Makinde, that all markets in the state should close for a period, except those where fruits and food items are being sold in order to control the spread of COVID-19, some of the shops on Lebanon Street have been opening to the public.
But the prompt response of fire brigades from Federal Fire Service, Oyo State Fire Service and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) South West Zonal Headquarters, Dugbe, prevented the fire from extending to more shops and buildings in the area that were built in clusters. The combined efforts of the firefighters led to the timely quenching of the inferno.
A visit to the scene of the incident revealed that many of the shop operators in the building initially tried to salvage some goods from their shops, but the intensity and fury of the fire prevented them, and many of them that ran into their shops before the fire would get there, had to also dash out for safety.
Officers of the Oyo State police command and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) were drafted to the scene to forestall a breakdown of law and order but were said to have been overwhelmed by the crowd. It was reported that some hoodlums took advantage of the incident to operate in the area despite the heavy security presence.
An assistant director of fire service in Oyo State, Mr Moshood Adewuyi, said his men could not reach the scene of the fire on time due to late notice, adding that the extent of the damage could not be quantified immediately.
Also, an official of the Nigeria Red Cross disclosed that three persons sustained injury during the incident.
But efforts made to speak to some of the identified victims of the fire incident did not materialise as they were not ready to talk to journalists.