Ogbonnaya Ndukwe, Aba
Goods and industrial sewing machines worth billions of naira were, yesterday, destroyed by fire which gutted the Old Express/Watchtower area of the popular Ariaria international market in Aba, Abia State.
The fire was said to have started around 9am from a store used by shoemakers in one of the private buildings converted into market stalls beside the Umuehilegbu Industrial market within the complex.
The fire incident sparked a protest by traders who destroyed a Mercedes Benz 1313 firefighting truck belonging to the Abia State government as they felt the response from the firefighters was belated.
A witness told Daily Sun that the fire began from one of the shops when a kerosene stove fell down from where it was positioned onto shoe producing materials and ignited fire in the the shop.
“The fire then began to spread to other shops, including a tailoring complex with many heavy duty industrial sewing machines, domestic gas filling points and restaurants with high capacity cooling equipment and diesel powered generators,” he said.
Aba Zonal Commander of the State Fire Service Department, Mr. Okezie Uche, said, his office received a distress call from someone in the market and on reaching the scene of the fire with four other firemen and their equipment, a mob of more than 1,000 persons barricaded the old express road entrance to the location and started beating them.
Uche said the vehicle driver was taken to the hospital as a result of injuries sustained during the scuffle with the hoodlums who succeeded in overturning their duty vehicle and taking away some vital parts.