Owerri — For the family of Nze Charles Agiri of Umunachi in Obokofia of Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State, Wednesday, September 11 will go down as a tragic day. That day, fire gutted the room where his four children were sleeping and roasted all of them to death.
Perhaps, if Agiri had known what awaited his children, he wouldn't have taken them back home from their maternal home where they went for a long vacation, but fate decided otherwise.
Agiri earns is an Okada man in Owerri, while his wife Mrs. Rosemary Agiri trades in second hand clothes and resides at Obokofia with his four children, including their eight-month baby boy.
The four children - Mercy (12), Chioma (eight), Ify (six) and Onyekachi (four) - before meeting their fate in their parents' house, had travelled to Benin to spend the holidays with their grand-mother. Their father asked them to return home to prepare for the reopening of their schools. Neither the father nor the children knew that death was calling.
Though their journey to Obokofia was hitch free, the children were happy to be reunited with their mother and their only brother. On arrival, their father, at the height of the new yam festival celebration of the community, left to fetch some fire wood for them to prepare their meal.
Mercy, who was to proceed to JSS1 this month, went into their kitchen and prepared instant noodles for her sisters, before their mother would return to prepare their evening meal. By 6pm the meal was ready and they ate together. They also prepared hot water for their father to bath with.
The father, immediately after their meal, left to deliver a message to his friend's mother staying with him in Owerri. On his way back, he stopped over to discuss some issues with a doctor living within their vicinity. But by the time he returned home, his family had gone to bed after prayers. The mother also breast fed their little brother.
Agiri, while narrating his ordeal, told Weekly Trust that after his family had gone to bed around 7pm, he quickly covered the lantern Mercy had put on and went to continue his discussion with Dr. Dede Uzoma.
Few minutes later, a little girl rushed to tell him that his house was on fire. He said he quickly rushed back to his house only to find people running helter-skelter trying to put off the fire to rescue his family.
He said it was his landlord who, on noticing smoke coming out of his house, rushed into the room calling his wife's name. When they finally succeeded in breaking the door to the room, they saw the children's mother watching helplessly as one of her legs was burning.
The landlord, according to Agiri, quickly pushed his wife and her baby in the midst of the raging fire. The four children tried to escape, but because the back door of their room was locked they roasted to ashes at the door post. The rescued wife was taken to Obiapku General Hospital.
Agiri said the fire which lasted for hours burnt both his personal and family belongings. He said there was no kerosene in the lantern in the house since the last two weeks which they have been using before the incident.
The fire did not consume the entire buildings except the room where the children and their mother were sleeping in. The little baby was rescued from the fire unhurt.
Agiri, who looks frustrated and confused, said if not for his landlord, his wife and his only son would had been consumed by the fire. He, however, appealed to government, corporate organizations and spirited individuals to come to their assistance as he has lost everything to the fire.
An eye witness Mrs. Amarachi Akiriga said it took the intervention of neighbours and relatives to save the life of the children's mother Mrs. Rosmary Agrey, her only surviving sister and the eight-month old boy. She said the more the villagers tried to put off the fire, the fiercer it becomes.
Divisional Police Officer in charge of Ohaji/Egbema Division, John O. Udoh said investigation has commenced to ascertain the cause of the fire incident.