From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Pensive is the mood of residents of Awe Street in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, following a fire that engulfed an entire building and claimed the life of a three months old baby girl last Monday. Although everyone seemed to be going about their business, it was glaring that all was not well since the incident.
The day had started normally until about 10:30am when one of the children in the compound noticed thick smoke coming from the inner room of one of the apartments at Number 6, Awe Street.
“When the young boy saw the smoke, he quickly alerted one of the women in the compound who turned and saw the fire and then raised the alarm,” a neighbour, who gave her name as Hassana Ayuba, said.
She explained further that, by the time neighbours mobilised to the compound to help put out the inferno, it was too late, as the fire had spread to all the eight rooms of the building.
Ayuba said, while neighbours were trying to see how they could recover some of the belongings of the tenants, to no avail, nobody remembered that the little baby was asleep on the couch in the room of one of the affected tenants.
“The mother of the baby had left her in the care of her co-tenant and went to school. The young girl that was initially carrying the baby on her back had dropped her on the couch after she slept off on her back.
“So, the baby was sleeping on the couch when the fire incident happened and no one remembered that she was there because of the suddenness of the fire.
“By the time someone discovered, it was too late as the baby had been burnt beyond recognition. It was a very sorry sight to behold that day,” Ayuba said.
The development left Amira Abdul, the 16-year-old mother of the child, inconsolable even as she battled with her already engorged breast when our correspondent visited her.
The young mother, who was surrounded by sympathizers at the time of the visit, was seen trying to eat something.
She said: “My name is Amira Abdul. I am a 16-year-old mother of two children. My first child, a boy, is two years old while my second baby, who just died in the fire outbreak, was three months old.
“In fact, that day, after I finished bathing my daughter and dressing her up, my neighbours were telling her that she was very beautiful and I thanked them.
“Not up to one hour after I dropped her with my neighbour and left the house, somebody came to our school and told us that there was fire outbreak in my compound. Initially, I thought it was a minor fire incident, until another woman came and told me to go home.
“By the time I got home and saw the level of damage, I started crying and asked for my baby. It was then that I was told that my baby had died in the fire.”
Asked if she had a premonition about the tragedy, Amira said she had no premonition but a young girl in the same compound had woken up that day to say that she saw in her dream that the house got burnt.
“A neighbour’s daughter woke up that morning and said that she dreamt that there was a fire in the compound. She even bought kolanuts to share to people to avert the danger but it still happened and started from their apartment,” she said.
Amira, who noted that it was only her building that was spared from the fire in the compound, wondered why her little daughter had to die instead.
Another neighbour, Alhaji Shuaibu Bello, while looking at the wreckage of the inferno, described the development as very sad.
Bello commended the youths in the area, who worked very had to put out the fire and stop it from spreading to other buildings in the neighbourhood.
He disclosed that the cause of the fire was yet unknown.