Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that a Boxing Day inferno from a building storing fireworks at Jankara Market, Lagos Island, razed 15 cars and over 20 houses with many injured as residents jumped windows for safety
The Christmas season although seen as a period of giving and sharing, also embodies fun to both Christians and Muslims. For many families in Nigeria, the season is thoroughly enjoyed and filled with fun.
However, one thing is constant in all these; many Nigerians employ the use of fireworks popularly known as "Bangers" to incite fun. Although a foreign custom, Nigerians have imbibed the use of fireworks to herald fun. With its ricochets of colours like red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and silver and the booming sound that accompanies it, the fireworks can be deemed a staple in Nigeria especially amongst children.
According to Wikipedia, the fireworks is a class of explosive pyrotechnic devices used for aesthetic and entertainment, and religious purposes and take many forms to produce the four primary effects: noise, light, smoke and floating materials.
As lovely as the fireworks might seem, it also portends danger if not handled properly. The same held true on Boxing Day, December 26, 2012 when a warehouse laden with fireworks exploded at Jankara Market, Isale-Eko, Lagos Island.
Again, according to Wikipedia, the improper use of fireworks may be unsafe, both to the person operating them (risks of burns and wounds) and to bystanders. In addition, they may start fires after landing on flammable material. For this reason, the use of fireworks is generally legally restricted.
As ironic as that might seem, the dangers inherent in fireworks still did not deter fireworks lovers from lighting up the skies. While the fire was raging on the Lagos Island, many people on the Mainland, who were oblivious of the incident still sent piles of fireworks to the sky.
The fireworks storage facility had exploded at about 9am, injuring several people and destroying several cars. Although the cause of the explosion was yet to be ascertained, it was alleged that someone had mistakenly thrown a firecracker into the building and it hit some unsold fireworks kept there.
After the inferno, no fewer than 20 buildings and about 15 cars were gutted by the early morning inferno, even as goods worth millions of naira went up in blazes as the fire spread wildly to other buildings around the area.
However, unconfirmed reports said a yet-to-be identified female teenager was feared dead in the explosion, even as several others sustained varying degrees of injuries.
The fire had started with an explosion, inciting panic in Lagosians who thought a bomb had detonated in the commercial city. Though firemen from the Lagos State Fire Service, Lagos Island East Fire Service and Lagos State Emergency Agency (LASEMA) made concerted efforts to battle the flames, the fire spread wildly.
When THISDAY visited the scene, billows of smoke was emanating from the burnt fireworks, inciting panic in the traders who expressed fears over some of the unexploded fireworks in other buildings.
It was gathered that some of the buildings affected by the fire served as either shops or warehouses for electrical accessories, electronics equipment and household items among others.
THISDAY gathered that the fire spread because the fire fighters did not battle the flames immediately. Corroborating, one of the fire fighters who pleaded anonymity said they were afraid to advance because of the heat radiation emanating from the flames.
However, the Director of the state Fire Service, Mr. Rasaq Fadipe, debunked the claims that the fire service was slow in putting out the fire rather he blamed the rowdy crowd which besieged the scene of the fire.
According to him, the intensity of the crowd had at first prevented more fire-fighting trucks to move in and support other fire fighters. He said, "Some of the buildings are about to collapse but we prevailed on the residents to vacate the residence but they refused.
"The major factor hindering our service now is crowd control. Our fire-fighting vehicles were around but they could not come in here because of the crowd. It took the efforts of the police and the military to cordon the place off."
Saddened by the incident, the Chairman of Lagos Island East Local Government, Mr. Kamal Bashua, said his office would carry out a discrete probe into the matter with a view to fishing out the perpetrators of the act.
He said, "We have been trying to curtail what comes into our market, I cannot explain how this people beat our security to bring in explosives like this. Thank God that as at now, no life has officially been declared lost.
"It is disheartening to see that fireworks that look like bomb could be imported. The fire has put down over 10 buildings. By the time you go to the next street, you would discover that this fire has affected many houses. We are trying to make sure that it does not escalate more than this."
Over 20 persons were arrested by policemen from the Lion Building Division as they attempted to loot some of the shops affected by the fire in the area.
THISDAY gathered that said since the area is mainly a commercial area, the inferno attracted many hoodlums who attempted to loot under the guise of rendering help.
Confirming the arrests, the Area Commander, Area 'A' Police Command, Lion Building, Mr. Imohinmi Edgal, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, said several persons were arrested.
"My men have been here since morning and were able to break the wings of those hoodlums who wanted to loot. We are deploying more policemen to this place to ensure maximum security," he said.