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Onitsha Fire: Angry mob stopped us from getting to scene early ─ Firefighters

THE late arrival of fire service operatives at the scene of the Ochanja market disaster has been attributed to attacks from angry mobs who pelted stones at firefighters.

The Controller General (CG) of the Federal Fire Service, Liman Ibrahim Alhaji, disclosed this in a statement via their Twitter handle on Thursday.

The statement, signed by the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Fire Service, Ugo Huan, said heavy traffic at the head bridge also prevented men of the fire service from getting to the scene of the incident in due time.

Alhaji said the Federal Fire Service in Abuja had received a call about the fire outbreak about 2 pm on October 16.

“The control room at the headquarters in Abuja immediately turned out the nearest Federal Fire Service Station at Asaba, Delta State to attend to the fire.

“Our men immediately headed to the scene, but it was not possible to contend with the heavy traffic at the head bridge and behaviour of an angry mob who pelted stones at them,” he said.

Alhaji said such action made it difficult for the firefighters to get to the scene and fight the fire in such a hostile environment.

The Federal Fire Service Controller noted that the service was committed to ensuring the safety of lives and property in the country.

“With the procurement of new state of the art firefighting trucks distributed to the 12 zones of the Service across the nation, the Service is always ready to respond to fire outbreaks and other emergencies across the nation.

“It is worthy to note that similar situations in recent past in Sokoto, Uyo, Minna, Ibadan, Osun and Lagos were prevented from escalating to a major disaster by Fire Service.

“The case of Ochanja market was an unfortunate one, as one will wonder why individuals will want to attack firefighters that came to help put out the fire that was threatening lives and ravaging property,” he noted

In the statement, the CG expressed his heartfelt condolences to the families who had lost their loved ones, including properties in the incident.

“The Service will like to use this opportunity to appeal to Nigerians that in as much as the Fire Service is prepared and committed to saving of lives and property in emergencies, their support and cooperation is highly needed to do that,” the controller said.

Alhaji said, “We remain committed to our mandate of saving lives and property of Nigerians and others residing in Nigeria”.

Residents of the commercial city of Onitsha, Anambra State had witnessed a ‘Black day’ as some part of the Ochanja market were burnt to ashes.

The disaster was said to have been caused after a petroleum tanker had an accident at the Upper Iweka axis, leading to an explosion which razed down buildings, took lives and properties.

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