Property worth millions of naira was on Monday night consumed by fire at the popular Watt Market in Calabar, Cross River State in Southern Nigeria.
Mainly affected were about 30 electrical and electronics shops located along the Yoruba line of one of the oldest markets in Calabar.
Southern City News learnt on Tuesday that the fire incident was the worst in the recent history of the market.
Scavengers had a field day gathering scrap materials when Southern City News visited the scene of the incident.
An eyewitness, David Salami, said the fire started at about 8pm on Monday, adding that the cause of the inferno was yet to be identified.
Salami lamented that officials of state Fire Service Station, whose office is located along Mary Slessor Avenue, about one kilometre away from the market, refused to respond to emergency calls on the claims that their fire vehicles were bad.
He said, “There has been no fire incident in the market for over 10 years now. The fire started around 8pm and as of now the fire is still smouldering.
“There was no help from the fire service officials who gave us a lot of excuses about lack of equipment and so the fire was put out with the help of the boys who used water and detergent.”
Several youths were said to have sustained injuries for taking the bold step to put out the inferno.
A market official who identified himself as Ayo said the traders were frustrated over attempts to get firefighters to put out the inferno.
“People alerted us that there was a fire outbreak but the fire services did not respond throughout the course of the incident.
“We thank God that no life was lost but goods worth millions of naira have been destroyed. The incident would not have been this worse if the situation was managed on time.
“It is very sad that when the fire services were called to put out the fire, they started giving all kinds of excuses. If the firefighters had come, the incident would not have been this bad.”
One of the traders, Divine Okoro, whose electronics shop was completed burnt down, said apart from the new goods he just stocked on Saturday, he lost over N200,000 cash to the fire.
“This is sad, I have lost materials and cash because nothing could be rescued,” the trader lamented.
The Cross River State Emergency Management Agency confirmed the destruction of over several shops in the market.
But SEMA’s Director General, Mr. John Inaku, after an assessment visit, said the cause of the fire was still unknown.
“Up till now, the cause of the fire is still unknown. Several shops were affected during the tragic incident. I am here on the directives of the state government to ascertain the cause of the fire outbreak and to report back so that something can be done to alleviate the plight of the victims.
“If you take a critical look at the shops, they are closely located. This makes it easy for the fire to spread quickly from one shop to another,” he said.
This article earlier appeared here