Christopher Oji and Lukman Olabiyi
Two buildings collapsed Wednesday, while five others were razed at the popular Balogun Market on Lagos Island as fire destroyed a section of the market with properties worth million of Naira.
The market, one of the busiest and biggest in the state, had suffered similar fate last November 5.
Besides, this came barely five days after the fire outbreak at another popular Amu Timber Market inMushin, where traders also lost millions of naira worth of goods and property.
Although no life was lost in the latest inferno, it was gathered that some buildings housing many shops caught fire which broke out from Anambra Plaza at Martins Street, beside Great Nigeria House near Leventis Bus Stop, Lagos Island around 9.00am
Combustibles like shoes and bags in the building, coupled with the wind, gave impetus to the flames. The inferno, according to witnesses, further spread to adjoining buildings in the highly-congested area which later affected about seven structures, comprising six other plazas and burnt everything in its path.
Regarding the cause of the inferno, one of the Balogun Market leaders, Chibike Okeke faulted the Director-General of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, who attributed the incident to the fuel stored inappropriately in one of the stores.
Initial efforts by emergency responders to put out the fire proved abortive as the inferno exacerbated, thus forcing them to jettison their first approach.
As the fire spread to the other buildings, the emergency responders had to revaluate the situation and they kicked off measures to prevent the fire from spreading rather than concentrate on putting it out completely.
While the fire fighters were still battling to contain the flames, two of the already burnt buildings caved in, which made LASEMA personnel to move in.
At about 1.19m, the four-storey building, located at No 35/37 from where the fire started, collapsed and at 1.21pm, another structure, a five-storey building located next to it began burning.
Few minutes later, the flames had extended to another structure, a 10-storey building. In all, seven buildings were engulfed by the conflagration.
As at the time of filing this report, the inferno was still raging and several traders who recorded huge loses were seen wailing.
Confirming the incident, Oke-Osanyintolu, disclosed that the inferno was caused by poor storage of fuel in the building.
He stated: “On arrival at the scene, it was discovered that a four-storey plaza had been gutted by fire.
“It escalated to adjoining buildings totaling seven in number and was contained by the emergency responders i.e the Lagos State Fire Service, the Federal Fire Service and NPA Fire Service.
“All responders are on ground and progress is being made. However, no life was lost as upon arrival, emergency responders combatted the inferno to salvage the situation.”
Emergency responders were drawn from LASEMA, the Lagos State Fire, Federal Fire Service, Nigeria Ports Authority Fire, Lagos State Ambulance Services (LASAMBUS) and the police.
Also on ground were the Commissioner for Special Duties & lnter-Governmental Relations, Paul Bamgbose Martins; the acting Director of the state fire service, Mrs. Magaret Oluseye and the operatives of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS), who tried to keep the hoodlums in check.
As at the 5. 30 pm, many traders were struggling to salvage some of their goods from the burning building.
Okeke while reacting to the alleged claim by LASEMA boss on the incident, said nobody could currently ascertain the cause of the inferno, adding that the government official’s claim was only based on mere assumption.
Also, the spokesperson for the agency, Mr. Nosa Okunbor, said that the swift response of the LASEMA team and the cooperation of other responders prevented the inferno from causing more damage.
As a result of the collapsed buildings at the scene, three persons which included member of Nigeria Red Cross, a firefighter personnel and a trader sustained minor injuries but there was no loss of life.