A pregnant woman and a child strapped at her back were some of the fatalities recorded at Wednesday’s inferno at the popular ‘Ochanja’ market in Onitsha.
An eyewitness report said that the yet-to-be-identified woman had initially escaped from the inferno, but had to go back to her shop to retrieve her sales proceeds. According to reports, in her attempt at crossing the wooden bridge, she fell into the gutter that had already been gutted by fire.
Attempts by on-lookers to rescue them were abortive, as the fire surged.
Reports said that another man at Ochanja by Zik Avenue also had gone back to his shop to retrieve the proceeds of his sales, and was trapped there and died.
The fire started when a fuel tanker lost control, fell into a drainage and discharged its content very close to the market along the Upper Iweka – bridgehead -MCC Bus stop.
The explosion gutted shops, six houses, and many vehicles. The victims were seen scampering to safety, while some tried to salvage anything they could.
An eyewitness, a building materials trader in that market, first tweeted about the incident @nonny _marshal
Onitsha Mcc to Upper Iweka on fire now pic.twitter.com/GjEzRqYzTI
— Manchester United (@Nonny_marshal) October 16, 2019
The Commissioner of Police, CP John Abang had visited the scene for on the spot assessment and appealed to the residents to remain calm.
PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI CONDOLES WITH THE VICTIMS.
President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed his condolences to those families who were affected.
Buhari said, “I am profoundly touched by the sight of the charred remains of an innocent mother and her child who are victims of this tragedy,”
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“I also extend my sympathies to other victims of the explosion whose houses, shops and other property were destroyed in the mishap,” the President was quoted from the statement released by his media aide, Garba Shehu.
Buhari directed the Ministry of Transport, the Federal Road Safety Commission and other stakeholders to urgently address the issue of safety standards in the country, with a view to stemming the embarrassing frequency of these tragedies.
INVESTIGATE THE INCIDENT –PDP
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), while commiserating with the victims of the fire incident, has called for an investigation to ascertain the root cause.
The party in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan while praying for the repose of the souls of the deceased challenged the government of Anambra state to find a lasting solution to these accidents that happen at this particular spot.
GOV. OBIANO SETS UP PANEL TO INVESTIGATE INCIDENT
The Anambra state governor, Willie Obiano has commiserated with the victims of the fire incident.
The governor made this known through his Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment , Don Adinuba said that the “Men of the Anambra State Fire Service arrived at the scene in good time with their new equipment. But for some reason, however, they were unable to quench the inferno”
“Governor Obiano and the entire people of Anambra State regret this unfortunate situation and the governor has taken steps to address the concerns.
The government has however, requested that the victims and families of those who lost their lives and properties to report at the Ekwueme Square, Awka on Monday, next week, for further documentation and possible government assistance.
However, a panel headed by Nkem Okeke, the deputy governor has been set up to investigate the cause of the accident and why the state fire service was not able to arrest the situation.
ANAMBRA STATE FIRE SERVICE
It was reported that men of the Anambra Fire Service failed to turn up to quench the inferno despite several calls.
However, fire men from neighbouring Asaba in Delta state, came to the rescue.
Group of protesters at the scene of the incident blamed the Anambra State government for the disaster, accusing it of failing to provide the necessary fire-fighting equipment in the state and Onitsha in particular.