Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
A storey building standing on No. 2 Nawfia Street in Abakaliki, the capital of Ebonyi State was recently gutted by fire. The affected building as well as household belongings worth over N50 million were razed by the inferno.
The fire incident, the reporter gathered, started at about 1pm on the fateful day. It was not clear what sparked the inferno.
The building, according to the victims, houses 16 families. While eight of them lived upstairs, the other half occupied the ground floor. Our correspondent who visited the scene observed that the first floor was completely razed.
At the moment, the victims, especially the eight families on the first floor, are in agony. Many of them could not save anything from their apartments as the inferno started when they were away.
It was gathered that some young men at the scene saved rescued some of the little children, including a two-month-old baby. Owing to the intensity of the inferno, the children had to be thrown down while some others on the ground caught them before they hot the ground.
Some of them who kept large sums of money in their apartments, and also owned expensive property were seen crying while sympathizers consoled them.
Although fire fighters and neighbours made efforts to extinguish the fire, it kept raging from every part of the building.
Some of the victims said they lost everything they had worked hard for. One of them, Mrs Blessing Orie, said her family lost everything they had. She lamented that the incident had devastated them.
Blessing narrated: “I got a call while in the market that there was a fire breakout at home. I rushed to the house immediately. By the time I got here, the fire had burnt everything. We didn’t remove a pin from the house.
“Our new cushion seats in the parlour which cost us N250,000; our new fridge bought for N150,000, money, clothing, our documents and those of our children, television sets and other household wares were all burnt.
“I have no idea what caused the fire outbreak. Members of my family had all left the house for our various businesses. I was called on phone and informed about the development. When we came, it was already too much, and no one could go in and pick anything.”
Another victim, Mr Ifeanyi Ogbodo, said his two-month-old son and a daughter were thrown down from the first floor.
“I was at my shop when my wife called me. She told me to rush home that our house was on fire. I took off immediately on my motorcycle. When I got here, the roof had already been razed.
“My wife told me that some men who came to assist in putting out the fire threw my two-month-old child, Chiemerie, and my daughter down from upstairs. We did not remove anything from our apartment”, he lamented.
Another victim, Mrs Bridget Egbudom said she suffered a dislocation while she and others were running around to put out the inferno.
“I was in my shop. I don’t know how the fire started but I heard people shouting. When I came out, the fire was already raging. I quickly brought the largest size of detergent from my shop which would be used in putting out the fire but before we could get there, the fire was already raging”, she said.
Mr Felix Orie, a trader, only lost all his property but also lost N250, 000 which he claimed was given to him for safekeeping by his kinsmen.
Felix lamented: “As I speak with you, the only thing I have is these clothes that I am wearing. Fire razed everything I have, including the money given to me for safekeeping by my village people.
“When I attended the village meeting held recently, I was told to bring the money this coming Saturday. I reasoned that since I would give them the money this Saturday, there was no need depositing it in the bank.
“I gave it to my wife for safekeeping but she refused to collect it from me saying that she would not be able to keep such an amount safely. I reasoned that if I put it in the car, thieves might break into the car and steal it. What I did was to keep it in my house.
“Before the fire service could come, the fire has consumed everything in that house. This my child (pointing at one of his children) got admission into the higher institution. All his papers and that of other children of mine were burnt completely. I didn’t remove a pin from there.”
An eyewitness, Tina Nwachukwu, also told the reporter: “I was here, and all of a sudden, we saw smoke upstairs. Before we could reach there, the fire was already raging and the smoke was much. All we could do was to rush in and bring out some property.
“The fire service came about 30 minutes after the fire had started raging but they tried their best. It was not clear what caused the fire in the first place because the owner of the apartment where the fire started from was not around.”
Other tenants, including Mr Anayo Okafor and Mrs Ijeoma Ogbuji also lamented that they lost everything they owned in the fire. The victims have appealed to the Ebonyi State government and other Nigerians to come to their aid.