Traders in Imo have lamented severe losses resulting from a fire accident at the popular Timber market, along Wetheral Road, Owerri, the state capital.
A witness said the inferno started at about 1.30am on Saturday, the eve of Christmas, and razed about 200 shops and goods worth over N4 billion.
A trader at the market, Mr Darlington Chinaza, said about 13 industrial machines, worth N6 million each were burnt, although the actual cause of the inferno could not be ascertained at the time of filing this report. Another trader, Mr Chinemerem Ikerionwu, urged relevant authorities to investigate the cause of the fire incident.
“People offloaded goods worth several millions last night and went home only to be called hours later that the market was on fire. This is unbearable. The government should probe this incident.
“A customer came here and bought goods worth N7.5 million. He said he was coming this morning to carry them. I don’t even know what he will do now. Will he seek a refund? If he does that, where will the shop owner get it from?”
Also, another trader, who pleaded anonymity, said: “I lost my two industrial machines and other items. We didn’t take out a single pin from the shops. Everything is lost. This is unbearable.
“It is a black Christmas for us. We don’t know where to go from here. Nobody knows the cause of the outbreak. We lost over N4 billion here,” he said.
A witness, Mr Benjamin Onyewuchi, said several initial efforts made by fire fighters to put out the fire proved abortive as it kept raging. He, however, called on the state Governor, Hope Uzodimma, to come to the aid of the victims, in whatever possible way, to ameliorate their plight.
“This market provides employment for many youths and artisans as well as loaders and other casual workers. Today, they have all been rendered jobless. We call on the government to provide soft loans or other interventions to ease the plight of these victims, some of whom obtained bank loans to buy goods for the season’s sales,” he said.
When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the Federal Fire Service, Zone “J” (Imo and Abia), Mr Mike Anowa, described the accident as unfortunate.
He, however, said the actual cause and losses of the inferno were yet to be ascertained.