No fewer than five houses and several shanties were burnt in a fire incident at Ebute Meta area of Lagos on Friday.
Our correspondents gathered that the fire started around 12noon from an electric pole at Okobaba by Jebba Street and spread to adjoining Kano, Coates and Tapa streets.
Eyewitnesses said gas cylinders stored in some of the houses escalated the fire.
When one of our correspondents got to the scene of the incident, pupils of Brainpoint College and occupants of nearby buildings were seen running helter-skelter.
Some of the victims alleged that the fire trucks sent to scene were not properly equipped.
“They came here late and in 10 minutes, they said their water was exhausted,” one of the eyewitnesses identified as Ake 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.
He said, “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.”
Head of local security in the area, Musibau Agbodemu, 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 added.
A youth leader in the area, Seye Olofin, 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,” Daniel Ugocha, one of the victims, said.
The Director General, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Dr Femi Oke-Osanyitolu, sympathised with people who lost properties to the inferno.
He, however, said there was the need for people to have behavioural change by putting safety measures in place.
He said, “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.
“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.”
On the allegation that help came late from emergency responders and that water exhausted during the operation, the LASEMA GM said, “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.”