Scenes on the University Road, Oke-Odo in Tanke on Wednesday were one of despair after a devastating fire outbreak engulfed about seven shops causing widespread damage.
One of the shop owners, Farida, who was visibly shaken by the incident spoke to RoyalTimes to explain her ordeal.
“We don’t even have an electricity connection in the shop. We don’t have anything that can spontaneously cause the fire,” she said on the brink of tears.
“So, I was wondering how the fire got here and we were told that it was a wire somewhere that sparked. There was an overload and suddenly the shops caught fire and it kept spreading till it got to our shop. This electricity overload is a very common issue now. I mean, this is not good. This is damage to properties. I mean how do you get insurance for buying clothes in the market? How will they even assess the value of clothes?”
Another shop owner, Juliana Monica popularly called Iyalaje, lamented the extensive impact, revealing that between six to seven shops fell victim to the ruthless blaze, incurring substantial losses for the merchants.
“I was sleeping around 1 o’clock this morning when I got a call that the shops were on fire and the guards in our area would not let me leave because it was still late in the night,” she said.
“It is now we see that all the shops have burnt down. If we are to count the number of shops that were affected, it will be up to six or seven.”
Abdulrasheed, one of the first on the scene, recounted arriving around 1:30 am and the initial fire truck from the Kwara State Fire Service was incapable of rendering assistance due to a malfunction preventing it from starting up, an account corroborated by a second eyewitness.
Abdulrasheed said, “I was called around 1:30 am today that the shops were on fire. I came to check but I immediately went back home to call others who have shops here too.”
“The first fire truck they brought did not have a fire extinguisher, so we were just using buckets to get water before another tanker came. Even the police took long before they came. It was the second fire truck that was able to put out the fire.”
AbdulRazaq, a student present during the calamity, pointed out that the high voltage of electricity in the area contributed to the chaos. He further affirmed the malfunction of the fire trucks, aligning with the earlier observations.
“They brought the light around 12:08. The fan started blowing in my hostel. My hostel is just about a 2-minute walk away from here. When we discovered that [the voltage was high], everyone decided to turn off their light.”
“The fire truck that came first could have been the one to put out the fire and to be very honest, they came very early but the truck was not starting, so they had to send for the second one. It was the second one that later helped put out the fire.”
According to accounts from eyewitnesses, a second fire truck arrived at the scene around 2:30am to put out the fire and Imam Yusuf highlighted another factor that hampered the timely arrival of fire trucks—attributing the delay to the ongoing construction of the Tunde Idiagbon bridge, creating obstacles and complicating the firefighters’ swift response.
“The fire service took longer before they came because the roads were blocked and they didn’t know where else to pass. The bridge has been causing us a lot in this area. Let’s assume we are taking someone to the hospital now and we decide to take the Flora route, it will not take long before we enter traffic and this can last for like an hour.”
The Fire Service Publicity Head Akeem Adekunle, speaking to RoyalTimes, clarified that a power surge triggered the fire outbreak, refuting claims that the fire trucks were non-operational.
“[We] zoomed off from our end and come down to that area with the aim and objective that we are going there to extinguish the fire, to see to the extinction of that particular incidence… that’s our objective, and that is why we zoomed off from our end from the GRA beside Kwara Hotel to that spot,” he said.
“How can we get there without any purpose and any reason and without any function to perform and we will leave our civic duty which is the extinction of fire and leave that particular fire outbreak to continue burning? It is not possible.”
Denying allegations of the truck malfunction, the spokesperson emphasized the power surge as the primary cause of the catastrophic incident.
“The first correspondent came, likewise the second one and we did the needful by seeing to the extinction of that fire incident. Based on the investigation we gathered, the fire occurred as a result of a power surge due to the carelessness of one of the shop owners.”
The aftermath of this devastating fire outbreak leaves the affected shop owners and victims grappling with substantial losses, while authorities continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident and questions are also raised about the regulation of power voltage distributed by the electricity company.