Monrovia — What seemed an unprecedented form of protest against the Liberian government's handling of the deadly Ebola virus erupted on Wednesday when a Liberian man identified as Edward Wellington Dellay set the conference room at the ministry of health and social welfare in Congo Town on fire in the early afternoon.
It took Maintenance workers who found it difficult to reach the area of the blaze, as the Liberia Fire Service was nowhere in sight to put out the blaze in the health ministry building to curb the fire.
"We were sitting at the transport division when we saw the fire in 227 (you know the blaze), that's how we ourselves started calling the fire service," said an already wet looking maintenance worker Yuan B. Tayson one of those who helped to put out the fire.
"But looking at the distance and the time that the fire service will leave from their ministry to come here, it will be a waste of time. We went through with some other guys from the maintenance department along from the transportation department, we went out there and we started to put out the fire. We succeeded in putting the fire out."
He said workers at the ministry were constrained to use a ladder to burst open the glass windows of the conference room when they saw the smoke, which billowed out of the building, which saved the entire building restricting the fire to only the conference room.
The Liberia Fire Service arrived after the health ministry employees had already put out the fire and made a citizen arrest of the culprit. The situation saw many employees running for their lives and it brought a halt to normal working activities at the Health Ministry. Reports gathered by FrontPageAfrica indicate that Mr. Delay has been engaging the health Ministry, informing them that his 14 year-old relative died as a result of the deadly Ebola virus.
Eyewitnesses, some whom work at the ministry say the aggrieved Liberian who called the fire 'A miracle' fire said he wanted to set the entire building ablaze because he blames the lack of doctors and nurses at major government hospitals to cater to his sick relative as what led to the relative's death.
Health Minister Dr. Walter Gwenigale reacting to questions from journalists got angry and walked away, when he was asked about the level of damage caused the ministry by the fire and whether it would continue normal activities. But before the minister could get angry at the question posed by a journalist, he validated eyewitness account of how the fire transpired.
"I came out I saw a group of people standing over a young man, whom they say confessed that he started the fire because a relative of his died of Ebola and nobody paid attention to him, that's all I know," said Dr. Gwenigale.
"What we have been trying to do is to put the fire out and thank God when the building was built, each floor has a hydrant that has a long pipe and water pressure under our own ground, so we were able to put the fire out. We are happy that the fire brigade is here."
Dr. Gwenigale said the fire caused minimum damage to the building as the fire was contained from spreading beyond the conference room where it started. "This whole conference room is destroyed, the glasses have been broken. But for you to know the extent you have to wait for the fire brigade to finish their inspection," he said.
"The offices are okay, it is the conference room here, where we can have the major conferences that actually burned completely and is destroyed."
Delay is the first Liberian to publicly protest the government's handling of the disease in this manner since the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, which has now caused 50 confirmed deaths and over one hundred cases. The suspect was quickly arrested by health ministry employees and turned over to the Liberia National Police.
"According to the information there was a fellow here who said he did the act and he has been taken to Zone 3 at Congo Town," said Tayson.
Protest from ELWA Residents
As the fire raged in the conference room at the health ministry, a sizeable number of residents from the Kpelleh Town and surrounding communities in the ELWA area blocked the main entrance of the ELWA compound housing the ELWA hospital to protest against the establishment of an Ebola isolation center in the area. A resident expressed fear over the setting up of the Ebola isolation center because they say it could lead to infecting people living in that area with the Ebola virus.