Onitsha Fire Victims Recount Losses, Govt Takes Over Site

Traders and residents who lost valuables to a fire incident on the Onitsha-Awka Road have recounted their losses and called on the state government to come to their aid.

Our correspondent had reported that there was tension in Onitsha on Sunday following a gas explosion which destroyed two filling stations  –Sylver Oil Filling Station and Christee Oil & Gas Limited, — along the road.

No fewer than 15 vehicles and some buildings were also burnt in the explosion which occurred around 7pm and lasted till around 10pm.

The incident caused serious gridlock as firefighters battled to salvage the remains of burnt property.

PUNCH Metro noted that there was no record of death in the incident.

Our correspondent, who visited the scene of the incident on Monday, observed as traders and residents lamented their losses.

A victim, Mr Samson Udechi, who sold vehicles on the premises of one of the filling stations, lamented that no fewer than 10 different brands of vehicles were burnt.

Udechi, who put the value of the vehicles at over N50m, regretted not insuring them.

He said, “Three days ago, someone asked me to insure those vehicles, but I refused, saying by next year, I would look into it. Now, look at what has happened.

“From what I heard, the fire started from the tyres of one of the tankers discharging its content and escalated to the cooking gas section; the gas cylinders then started exploding.

“Men of the state fire service responded, but before they could get here, the fire had caused a lot of damage.”

Another victim, Mrs Uchechi Uzor, a point-of-sale operator, said the fire destroyed cash and goods worth N20m in her shop.

A worker in one of the filling stations, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he and his colleagues escaped by a whisker because “the thick smoke alone made movement almost impossible.”

A passerby, who identified herself as Rose, said, “I was in a Keke Marwa on the other side of the road when suddenly my dress caught fire. The fire was a result of the explosions; the fire was spreading. I immediately tore the dress, even my underwear, and started running to nowhere in particular. In fact, I have never seen such a fire in my life. It was terrible and we thank God it happened on a Sunday, when most people don’t open for business.”

The leader of the fire service team, Mr Uzomawanne Okechukwu, said his men responded to a distress call around 6.45pm but were delayed at the DSP Junction, Onitsha, because of traffic.

Okechukwu noted that when they arrived, the fire had spread to the gas section, which escalated it.

“We were told that the fire started from the tyre of one of the tankers. When we arrived, the fire had become much. It took the combined efforts of both the federal and state fire services to put out the fire.

“The challenge we had was that the filling stations did not have water and when our water finished, we were going to the Okpoko area to get water and because of the distance from here to Okpoko, each time we came back, the fire had increased again, this made the job a little cumbersome,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Anambra State Government has sealed and taken possession of the site of the two filling stations.

The state Governor, Willie Obiano, who visited the scene on Monday, directed law enforcement agencies to seal other filling stations with gas shops.

He said, “I got the information that the fire was ignited when the dealers were offloading and discharging cooking gas.”

He warned fuel dealers to desist from building gas shops on their premises.

naij new


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here