Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
The death toll from the Onitsha fuel tanker fire has increased to six, as three more corpses were recovered from one of the shops razed in Wednesday’s conflagration in Anambra’s commercial capital.
This brings the total number of dead persons in the inferno to six, including a pregnant woman and her child, and a man who died yesterday.
Also destroyed by the fire were six plazas, 100 shops and residential houses worth over N1 billion.
The President of Ochanja Central Market, Chief Nelson Ojukwu, and a patron of the market, Mr Ifeanyi Iloka, said the fire lasted all night till Thursday morning without any intervention by the fire service. They say that market leaders and traders had to pay for water tankers used to put out the fire and stop it from spreading to other shops.
Traders have lost about N1billion worth of goods and property to the fire, the market leaders say, appealing to the government to provide fire-fighting trucks to the market.
Meanwhile, Governor Willie Obiano has visited the scene of the fire at Upper Iweka, but not Ochanja Market where the main disaster occurred due to fears of possible attack by traders who have been casting aspersions at the Governor, blaming him for not intervening in stopping the disaster.
Governor Obiano, who was accompanied by the State Commissioner of Police Mr John Abang, promised to compensate the affected traders before Christmas.
He expressed sadness over the tragic incident and assured that a panel of inquiry that has been swiftly set up will commence immediate work to ascertain the number of shops affected and their owners in a bid to compensate them.
The Governor also expressed concern over the inability of the State Fire Service to be allowed to put out the fire when they came to fight the fire, but assured that his government would provide a Fire Service facility around the Upper Iweka axis.
He warned criminal elements to stay away from traders property and goods, noting that the government would deal decisively with any criminal caught in criminal activities at the scene of the fire.