Humanitarian Affairs Minister Visits Scene of Onitsha Market Fire

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Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar-Farouq
  • Assures victims of FG’s support  
  • Two more petrol tankers fall in Onitsha

David-Chyddy Eleke in Awka

The federal government has assured victims of Wednesday’s fire incident at the Ochanja Market, Onitsha in Anambra State, of its support towards ameliorating their plights.

Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar-Farouq, gave the assurance yesterday in Onitsha when she visited the market to ascertain the level of damage.

Umar-Farouq said she was pained at the level of losses incurred by the traders as well as the damage caused by the inferno.

“We are here on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, who directed that the ministry should come and condole the government and people of Anambra, especially the Ochanja Market traders mostly affected by the fire incident.

“I came here with sadness and utmost priority. Billions of naira has been lost by this fire incident. I have directed the acting Director-General of NEMA to immediately send relief materials through the South-East zonal office to the affected victims of the incident,” she said.

The minister, who interacted with some of the victims, further assured that the ministry would work closely with the state to see how they could prevent further occurrence.

“A joint committee made up of Federal and State governments will come later to assess the level of damage with a view to forestalling future incidents of fire outbreaks,” she noted.

According to her, part of the assessment would focus on prevention and mitigation aspect of disaster and response to forestall future occurrences.

In his remarks, Chief Primus Odili, the Chief of Staff to Gov. Willie Obiano, commended the swift response of the Federal Government to the disaster.

Odili, who took the minister round the market in the company of NEMA and Red Cross Society officials, requested for fire trucks from Federal Government to help combat such incidences in future.

“The people of Anambra are happy that the President within 24 hours was able to deploy people that came to assess the extent of damage and to give orders that relief materials be sent down to our people. What happened touched the heartbeat of trade and commerce in the South-East; we are asking the Federal Government to also come to our aid in terms of fire trucks.

“We have about 20 fire trucks. About four of them came for the rescue operation. Early this morning, we had a similar incident at Nkpor (near Onitsha) and about six fire trucks were deployed within minutes, which is why we are not talking about serious damage.

“We are soliciting fire trucks; at the Ochanja Market, we need at least three. You saw how congested that market is, so we need high powered fire trucks that can deal with such fire disasters as we saw on Wednesday,” he appealed.

Responding, the Chairman of one of the affected plazas in the market, Chief Ndubisi Onuoha, commended President Buhari for condoling with them.

But Onuoha prayed that the promises made to them by the Federal Government should not be diverted.

Two Petrol Tankers Fall again

Two petroleum tankers yesterday fell in Anambra just 48 hours after the Upper Iweka accident.

The incidents yesterday happened in Onitsha and Agulu in Anaocha Local Government area of Anambra State, respectively.

While that of Onitsha, which happened about 3:45am spilled its content, destroying about 20 vehicles and residential buildings, the one in Agulu registered no casualty.

Sources told THISDAY that residents of Omagba phase 2 in Onitsha were awoken rudely by the fall of a tanker at 3:45am, causing pandemonium in the area, after its product spilled, causing a fire outbreak that gutted over 22 vehicles.

“As the product flowed through the canal, its fire was spreading too,” a source in the area said.

Our correspondent gathered that the incident caused pandemonium in the town because of Wednesday’s incident, which resident of the city were yet to recover from.

Narrating the incident, our source said, “The PMS Laden Tanker early this morning lost control and rammed into a parked caterpillar in front of Bessoy Filling Station, along Enugu-Onitsha Expressway, Onitsha.

“The tanker started emptying its content on the road; parked cars erupted in balls of fire.

Just like the Wednesday fire, the source said the Anambra State Fire Service men were unable to put off the fire, and their Delta counterpart came to their rescue.

“We called the Onitsha fire service, but they said they didn’t have a functional vehicle, we called Awka, and they said they were coming, but miraculously, it started raining and the Delta State fire service came too and helped and the fire was quenched.”

It was however gathered that immediately the fire broke out at about 4am, residents of the affected area vacated their houses for fear of being caught by the fire.

The incident in Agulu happened at about 7am after a truck conveying petroleum product lost its break, while trying to make a U-turn in the town.

Our correspondent gathered that no life was lost, as the men of the fire service were on hand to prevent the fuel from spilling.

The Anambra State police Command’s spokesperson, SP Haruna Mohammed confirmed the incident; saying that the Commissioner Police, CP John Abang had also visited the scene and that fire Service department was equally on ground.

When our correspondent arrived the scene at about 12pm, another truck had been brought to evacuate the contents of the fallen tanker, while police men were seen cordoning off the area to prevent casualties.