Traders Say Lost N30Bn as Mystery Fire Razes Balogun Market

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Traders at the Balogun market in Lagos Island have been counting their losses following the early morning fire outbreak on Monday, claiming they lost goods worth N30 billion.
In separate interviews, the traders told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that about 11 containers containing bags, shoes and clothing materials had just been off loaded into some of the shops that were razed.
Mrs Kadiri Kareem, an attendant in one of the shops, said that her employer had goods worth N27 billion in his containers.
“The containers have just arrived and we have barely completed offloading the goods.
“Nothing has been sold out of them before this fire. This is not a good way to start the New Year,’’ she said.
Another trader, Mr Okechukwu Anyiam, said he lost goods in four shops and do not know how to start quantifying the losses.
“My God, is this how I will start this New Year?
“When we left yesterday there was no sign that there will be fire. Where do I start from here,’’ he lamented.
“It is not good to rent many shops in one place,’’ Mrs Iyabo Adebola, another trader said.
According to her, many of the shops razed in the plaza are owned by wholesale traders in wears and accessories.
Mr Rasaq Ekunsumi, the Secretary of the Balogun Community in Central Lagos, said that the fire started around 4 a.m. from one of the containers attached to the five-storey building.
He said that the building first went up in flames and spread to other shops.
He added that the fire spread quickly because the items in the containers were inflammable.
“We started calling the fire service immediately the flame was noticed. But they did not arrive until fire had spread to two adjacent buildings.
“It is not what we could handle because the fire began where rubber products are being sold,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Rasaq Fadipe, the Director, Lagos State Fire Service, has called for assistance from other rescue agents as they moved equipment to fight the inferno.
He made the call while inspecting the fire fighting operation at the market.
According to him, the help was needed to remove obstructions around the area to enable fire trucks access the buildings and combat the fire.
NAN reports that both the National Emergency management Agency (NEMA) and the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) are on ground to assist the fire service in curtailing further spread of the fire.
Others are the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), the Red Cross and Lagos Island Community leaders.
The fire which was said to have started at about 4 a.m. affected about five buildings but no casualty was recorded in the incident.
Confirming the incident, Supt. Olarenwaju Smith of the Ebute-Ero Police Division, attributed the incident to power surge.
“Considering the weather, the fire service men are doing their best to put out the fire. We are equally here to protect lives and property.
“The way shops are built here makes it difficult for both the police and fire service officers to have access to the affected buildings.
“No death or casualty has been recorded so far.
“We were told that the cause of the fire was an electrical spark from a transformer which later spread to an electricity generator,’’ the police officer said.
Mr Pascal Olokungboye, Chief Fire Officer, Lagos State Government Fire Service, said that fire fighters from the state arrived at the scene few minutes after a distress call was made to their station.
“We received a distress call around 4 a.m. and immediately we rushed down to the scene.
“We have exhausted two tankers with capacity of 10, 000 liters of water and we have also called for backup from our stations as the water is not enough.
Olokungboye also thanked God that there was no casualty in the incident.
Some of the traders whose goods were affected were seen crying and lamenting their losses, while others were also seen sympathising with them.
Mr Boniface Okeke, one of the traders, said that two of his warehouses were razed, adding that he lost goods worth over N5 million.
“I was brushing my teeth this morning in preparation to come to the market when I received a call that my shops are on fire.
“Eeh! Can’t you see how the fire is raging on, all my goods are destroyed. All that I have laboured for is gone,’’ the sobbing trader told NAN.
Another trader, Mrs Tinu Kilani, who was in tears while speaking to NAN, said all her shops and the goods therein had been destroyed by the fire.
“I cannot even estimate the amount of goods I have in there and now everything is gone,’’ she said.
Mr Johnson Ebere, who also had a shop at the market, said his shop was also affected.
“I sell shoes, slippers and sandals and everything has been destroyed by the fire,’’ he said.
Roselyn Edeigba, one of the shop owners, said that her warehouse worth more than N6 million was destroyed.
NAN reports that the fire which may have been aided by harmattan wind, raged on at the time this report.
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