- Residents, business operators count losses
For years, Patrick Mbeh lived in fear of a fire disaster. His house, number 122, Lawanson Road in Lagos, is located beside a filling station. In the evening of Thursday, January 29, 2016, Mike’s fears were confirmed when the MRS filling station along the popular Lawanson road went up in flames after a fuel tanker exploded while discharging its contents.
Speaking with The Nation, Mbeh, who claimed that he lost everything to the fire, said he was in the Ajah area of Lagos when he was called that his house was on fire. “I have lived here for around 30 years. Since I started living here, I always had the fear that one day, there might be fire outbreak. Unfortunately, my fears were confirmed on Thursday when the filling station went up in flames and spread to our house. i lost everything because my family could not rescue anything. I just thank God that nobody was killed.”
A visibly distraught Mbeh said the residents of the building have been made homeless by the fire, calling on good-spirited Nigerians and the government to come their aid. “As you can see, we have all been made homeless. Aside from losing all our property to the fire, we presently don’t have where to lay our heads. I want to appeal to Nigerians and the government to please come to our assistance. They should help us so that we can have where to sleep.”
Ironically, one of the offices in the destroyed building sold fire extinguishers. The company, Profile Ventures, was completely destroyed by the fire. A friend of the owner of the company, John Okhimhe, said the workers in the company were unable to evacuate the goods in the shop, as the rampaging fire quickly spread through the building.
The fire, which eyewitnesses said started at about 5pm, destroyed everything in its path, including a residential building located beside the filling station, the fuel tanker and two cars parked inside the fuel station at the time.
According to Rufus Olowoyeye, a taxi driver, whose parking lot is located adjacent to the filling station, the tanker was discharging fuel when it caught fire. “I was outside here when suddenly we heard a loud noise. When I looked, I saw that the filling station was on fire. All efforts to put out the fire were futile, as it quickly spread to the building beside the filling station. It was a very scary experience, as everybody ran for their lives.”
The owner of the filling station, Reverend Boniface Williams, would not speak on the incident when The Nation called his phone number. The man of God, probably still in shock, simply refused to speak, saying: ‘’I don’t want to say anything for now.”
The filling station was completely destroyed, leaving the carcass of the fuel tanker and two cars.
But, aside Reverend Williams, the biggest loser to the fire is Celestine Elom, the owner of two different supermarkets located in the destroyed building. One of the shops sold wine and other sophisticated drinks, while the other sold general goods.
Elom’s brother, who spoke with The Nation, said the fire caught the people by surprise. “We could not rescue anything from the shops. The fire started suddenly, and what anybody could think of at the time was safety. We just stocked the shops before this fire. It is a very big loss for us.”
Mrs Adegbite’s shop is located a little distance away from the entrance of the filling station. In the last 10 years since she started her business, she had improved her business, selling assorted drinks and food. “I have been here for about 10 years now. I sold drinks and food, and it is from the proceeds from this business that I assist my family to make sure that our children receive good education.”
But the fire has left the Adegbites inconsolable and unsure of what the future has in stock for their family. “I don’t know what to say for now,” she said amid tears. “As you can see, I was not able to take anything from the shop. The fire has destroyed us and we don’t even know what to do for now,” she added.
53-year-old Mike Mbeh was at work when the fire that consumed his home started. His efforts to get back home to rescue some of his property ended in futility, as the house was completely destroyed by the time he got home. Mike said he is left with the only dress he had on before the fire.
“I was not home when the fire started. It had destroyed everything before I rushed back home. For now, I don’t have any cloth to wear. The cloth I am wearing is the only one that I have left.”