Timber traders in Imo have lamented severe losses resulting from a fire accident in the popular timber market along Wethedral road, Owerri, the state capital.
Some traders who spoke to a correspondent in Owerri on Monday said the inferno, which started at about 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, December 24, consumed over 200 shops and goods worth over N4 billion and asked the government to investigate the incident.
A correspondent who visited the market reports that the fire was still raging in some parts of the market at about 1:00 p.m. on Monday, despite efforts by operatives of the Federal Fire Service to quench it.
One of the traders, Darlington Chinaza, said that about 13 industrial machines, each worth N6 million were burnt, although the actual cause of the inferno was not yet ascertained.
Another trader, Chinemerem Ikerionwu, called on relevant authorities to investigate the cause of the unfortunate incident.
“People offloaded goods worth several million last night and went home only to be called hours later that the market was on fire. This is unbearable. The government should probe this incident.
“A customer came here and bought goods worth N7.5 million. He said he was coming this morning to carry them. I don’t even know what he will do now. Will he seek a refund? If he does that, where will the shop owner get it from?”
Also, another trader who pleaded anonymity, said, “I lost my two industrial machines and other items. We didn’t take out a single pin from the shops. Everything is lost. This is unbearable.
“It is a black Christmas for us. We don’t know where to go from here. Nobody knows the cause of the outbreak. We lost over N4 billion here,” he said.
Benjamin Onyewuchi, a witness, said several initial efforts made by firefighters to quench the fire proved abortive as it kept raging.
He, however, called on the state governor, Hope Uzodimma, to come to the aid of the victims in whatever possible way, to ameliorate their plight.
“We call on the government to provide soft loans or other interventions to ease the plight of these victims, some of whom obtained bank loans to buy goods for the season’s sales,” he said.
When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the Federal Fire Service, Zone “J” (Imo and Abia), Mike Anowa, described the accident as unfortunate.
He, however, said the actual cause and losses of the inferno were yet to be ascertained.