No fewer than 2,000 traders suffered huge losses in the fuel tanker fire that destroyed major parts of the Ochanja Market in Onitsha, according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
The South-East Zonal Coordinator of NEMA, Fred Anusim, disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Enugu while speaking on the extent of damage by the fire.
Anusim said that from the “rapid assessment” conducted by the agency, over 50 storey buildings were affected.
He said that the assessment was not comprehensive but rapidly done due to the prevailing anger amongst residents of the commercial city.
Anusim said that the people were angry against the government because of the alleged failure by the the state Fire Service to intervene in good time to control the fire.
He said: “After receiving information on the inferno on the evening of October 16, we did a rapid assessment on October 17.
“On October 18, we still went to the scene with the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Hajiya Saddiya Farouk, as direct by President Muhammadu Buhari.”
Anusim said that the delegation could not do much in terms of assessment “because the traders and residents were still visibly angry.”
“However, from what we saw on ground, which is not comprehensive, at least over 2,000 traders had been thrown out of business, while over 50 houses were completely or partially destroyed.
“The 50 buildings were mostly two, three and four storey buildings with some of them having all round sales shops and warehouses.
The NEMA boss described the destruction from the fire, which reportedly happened within two hours, as “colossal, highly pathetic and horrific.”
He said that the minister directed the agency to liaise with the Anambra State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and the market leaders to conduct a comprehensive assessment of traders and buildings affected and submit the report to her office.
Anusim gave an assurance that “the Federal Government will not delay in sending food and non-food relief materials to immediately ameliorate the hardship being faced by the victims’’ once the comprehensive assessment was ready.
He lauded the Anambra government for its efforts to provide some relief materials to the victims, especially traders and landlords.
“I must commend the Anambra government for its efforts to better equip the fire service and fire stations in the state.
“But must we wait for incidents to happen before getting ready for unforeseen disasters,’’ Anusim said.
Recall that on October 16, a fuel tanker exploded and spilled its content in the drains within Upper Iweka axis, resulting in the fire that burnt the market and killed eight persons.