Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
A strange night fire has engulfed the popular New Benin market located in the heart of Benin, the Edo State capital, destroying goods and property worth several millions of naira in the process.
The inferno, which reportedly began at about 7:25pm on Sunday, was said to have razed over 25 shops at the market with a large concentration of foodstuff wholesalers and retailers at the two adjoining streets close to Okundayo Street, off Mission road in the state capital.
It was gathered that the fire started inside one of the shops laden with assorted food items such as rice, beans and beverages, from where it spread to other areas.
Most of the traders were not at the market during the incident as it was weekend while others had travelled outside the state.
It was not certain however what may have led to the ugly incident as some of the affected traders attributed it to power surge, while others blamed the inferno on a candle light from one of the shops.
The affected traders, concerned relations and sympathisers had besieged the market Sunday night to save what was left from the raging fire.
They had battled for over three hours to bring out the remnants even as looters had a field day.
It took the intervention of men of the state Fire Service to put out the fire.
When reporters visited the scene Monday morning, some of the affected traders were seen searching for some of the trapped goods from the rubbles amid cries about the huge loses as residents bemoaned their losses.
One of the traders, who rushed to the scene, collapsed on seeing that his entire shop was consumed by the fire.
The man whose name was not immediately known as at the time of this report was said to have been rushed to a nearby hospital where doctors and nurses are battling to resuscitate him.
He was said to have kept N2 million cash made from previous sales inside the shop thus losing both cash and goods to the fire.
Another victim, who gave his name as Samuel Ijezie, said he lost his entire wares to the fire.
â€œI was somewhere close to the market to buy something, I saw people gathering around here; I donâ€™t come to market on Sunday but because of the gathering I rushed to the area to see what was happening only to see it was fire but before I could come down, fire had taken over everywhere. I didnâ€™t save anything; millions of naira wasted here. I lost more than N2 million to the fire; I did not bring anything out. The fire was everywhere even my generator was consumed. I did not bring out anything,â€ he said.
Another victim, Mr. Chukwudi Anisieke, whose warehouse was stocked with assorted goods on Saturday night, said everything was completely burnt by the fire, adding that he lost more than N7 million to the inferno.
He disclosed that he had returned from market on Saturday and loaded his shop with goods at about 8pm same day, adding that everything went with the fire.
â€œThe entire thing got me tired. I am totally confused. I was at home yesterday evening when people called me on phone that New Benin market was burning. Before I reached here everywhere had caught fire and I could not pick out a single thing from my shop. I lost more than N7 million to the fire,â€ he said.