By Kunle Adedoyin
Several houses and shanties were burnt in a fire incident at Okobaba in Ebute Meta area of Lagos over the weekend.
The fire was believed to have started around 12noon on Friday from an electric pole at Okobaba by Jebba Street and spread to adjoining Kano, Coates and Tapa streets.
It was believed that gas cylinders stored in some of the houses escalated the fire.
Also, some eyewitnesses said the fire services did not respond to the emergency on time and that trucks did not have enough water to combat the fire.
“They came here late and in 10 minutes, they said their water was exhausted,” one of the eyewitnesses said.
Apart from the houses and shanties that were burnt, three vehicles were also damaged.
One of the victims, Jelili Babatunde, lamented that his bakery was affected.
“I am sad and pained right now. I don’t know where to start from. Nothing could be rescued. All my machines and other equipment worth N10m have been damaged. I have over 40 workers and I don’t know what their fate would be.
“I also have my family to feed and this is what I depend on. I hope the government would do something to save the situation. This is the worst I have seen.”
Musibau Agbidemu, Head of local security in the area, said thousands of shanties were affected.
“I can say about 2,000 shanties are affected here. This cuts across four to five streets. When they called us, we rushed down to the place. We put calls across to all the necessary agencies but they didn’t come with enough water. This kind of thing has happened before but this one is worse,” he said.
Leaders in the area said about 5,000 people were rendered homeless by the incident.
“I am already homeless. I have nowhere to stay. I don’t know where I will sleep as I speak to you. All belongings are gone,” one of the victims, said.
Dr Femi Oke-Osanyitolu, the Director General, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), who sympathised with people who lost properties to the inferno, said there was the need for people to have behavioural change by putting safety measures in place.
“When received a distress call, we activated our emergency response plan and all the key stakeholders were on the ground and we did our best to put out the fire. We will do complete enumeration of houses and shanties affected,” Oke-Osanyitolu said.
“Inasmuch as the government is doing the needful, people need to key into the vision. People keep on storing combustible materials in their houses and shops. We appeal to people to know that disaster management is everybody’s job.”
He denied that help came late from emergency responders and that water exhausted during the operation.
“It is not true. We encountered some challenges before we got to the scene. The accessibility to the place was poor. However, after a short while, we were able to surmount it.”