Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
Death toll from the Onitsha fuel fire disaster increased to six as three bodies were recovered, yesterday, in one of the razed shops.
Initial casualty figure was three including a pregnant woman, her child and an unidentified man.
President of Ochanja Central Market Chief Nelson Ojukwu and a patron of the market, Mr. Ifeanyi Iloka, yesterday, told journalists that the fire lasted all night without any intervention by fire fighters.
“Market leaders and traders had to pay for water tankers that were bringing water to put out the fire and to stop it from spreading to other shops,” Ojukwu said.
He said six plazas, 100 shops and residential houses worth over N1 billion were destroyed and appealed to government to purchase fire fighting truck for the market.
Meanwhile, Governor Willie Obiano, yesterday, visited the scene at Upper Iweka, but shunned Ochanja market where the major tragedy took place due to fear of possible attack by traders.
Obiano, who was accompanied by the Commissioner of Police, Mr. John Abang promised to compensate affected traders before Christmas. He expressed sadness over the incident and said a panel of inquiry had been setup to ascertain the number of shops affected and their owners in order to pay compensation.
The governor also expressed concern over the inability of the fire service to access the market to quench the fire when they showed up.
Obiano said government would provide fire fighting service facility at Upper Iweka axis.
He warned criminals saying government will deal decisively with any criminal caught at the scene of the fire.
Meanwhile, the House of Assembly, yesterday, constituted a committee to investigate the fire outbreak.
The committee was inaugurated following a motion raised under Matters of Urgent Public Importance by Mr. Edward Ibuzor (Onitsha North lI), at an emergency plenary .
Moving the motion, Ibuzor said the committee had the mandate to ascertain the cause of the fire outbreak and recommend remedial measures to prevent future occurrences.
“We have an oversight duty to unravel the cause of the fire incident to help provide closure for the affected persons and come up with lasting solution to prevent this kind of tragedy,” he said.
Mr. Emeka Aforka said the fire incident had brought untold hardship, agony and fear to residents and visitors to the market.