Seven buildings in the Balogun Market area of Lagos Island, Lagos State, were on Wednesday, razed by fire.
The incident happened on Martins and Sunny Adewale streets, as reported by Punch newspaper.
It was learnt that the fire started around 8.30am from a four-storey building located at No. 35/37, Martins Street, and quickly spread to the adjoining buildings.
Most of the razed buildings were besides the Great Nigeria Insurance building, which was similarly burnt on November 5, 2019.
A generator was working when one of the traders attempted refuelling it which started the fire.
Some of the traders told PUNCH Metro that when the fire started, they contacted the Lagos State Fire Service, whose personnel arrived at the scene promptly.
They added that there was little the firemen could do as hawkers and other traders congested the scene.
One of the victims, Gift Duru, said if the hawkers, who blocked the street through indiscriminate display of their wares, had conducted themselves properly, the fire would not have spread to other buildings.
Duru, whose two shops were located at Nos. 8 and 10 Sunny Adewale Street, explained that she lost goods worth millions of naira to the inferno.
She stated, “The fire was not caused by any electrical spark; it was premeditated to bring pain to the people. Fire incidents are too frequent in this Balogun Market.
“In less than two minutes, the fire had spread to many buildings and many of the victims couldn’t salvage a pin. We were not able to salvage anything, including the money inside the drawers, from our two shops.
“We have lost millions of naira to the inferno. We want the government to come to our aid and help us.”
Another victim, Mr David Obinna, who had a shop and a warehouse at No. 52 Martins Street, said he lost goods worth millions of United States dollars to the inferno.
Obinna, who deals in exotic shoes and clothes, said he could not blame anybody for the incident, but called on the Lagos State Government to come to the aid of the victims.
A Chinese firm, MH Industry Company Limited, dealing in fabrics and occupying two floors in a building on Martins Street, was completely burnt down.
One of the firm’s workers, Oluseyi, told our correspondent that the warehouses were fully loaded when the inferno occurred.
According to him, it is hasty to estimate the loss.
A patron of one of the fabric shops, Toyin, said she bought some materials from one of the shops that were razed around 8am.
She stated that when she got home, she discovered that the materials were not exactly what she wanted and decided to return them.
Toyin added that when she got to the market area about 30 minutes later, she saw people running helter-skelter with the buildings billowing in the distance.
It was that observed many shop owners, in a bid to salvage their wares, threw them down from the floors of the affected buildings.
The building, where the inferno started from as well as another later collapsed due to the intensity of the fire.
The Director-General, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Dr Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, said the agency got a call through its emergency toll-free line around 10am that there was a fire incident on Martins Street.
He added that when LASEMA personnel got to the scene, they conducted a preliminary survey, which indicated that someone was filling a generator with fuel without turning it off and that was what caused the fire.
He said, “We discovered that all the small shops in the affected buildings had generators; the owners also stored kegs filled with petrol in the shops.
“The fire affected seven buildings. All the key stakeholders in managing emergencies in Lagos State are on the ground. With the combined efforts, we were able to curtail the spread of the fire and extinguish it after battling with it for many hours.
“On that note, we will subject all the buildings here, especially those that were not touched by the fire, to integrity test, because we want to ensure the safety of lives and properties here.
“We will commence enforcement after we might have carried out holistic sensitisation and advocacy, and if we find any building that falls short of our integrity test, such will be demolished.”
The Director-General, Lagos Safety Commission, Mr Lanre Omojola, said, “We were here two months ago to combat fire and we were here last week to talk to people about safety. We went round this market. Unfortunately, it looks like the latest fire started because of human error.
“The message is we will continue to reiterate the importance of safety to our people. The governor of the state has made a lot of investments. He is constantly buying new equipment for firefighting and buses for markets.”
Meanwhile, the police arrested two persons, Benjamin Felix and Fred Godwin, for stealing some wares from the scene of the inferno.
According to the police, Felix claimed to be a scrap dealer, but there was nothing to prove that except some bags and clothes stolen from the scene.