Traders count losses as fire guts Onitsha market

Tragedy struck in Onitsha, Anambra State on Tuesday when fire razed a large part of the White House section of the popular Onitsha Main Market.

The area serves as a warehouse and also where textile materials are being sold.

Although the cause of the fire has yet to be ascertained, eyewitnesses told our correspondent that it started between 4.30am and 5am.

An eyewitness said, “The fire started at the White House where they sell lace materials and other items. The place was supposed to be a motor park and an emergency exit and entry, but the people blocked it with structures.

“Even when the firefighters arrived, they battled to access the area. Even the traders could not enter to salvage their goods.”

When our correspondent went around sections of the market, some traders were seen lamenting their loss as they battled to quench the fire and salvage whatever remained of their goods.

It was gathered that a two-storey building housing a police block, local government office, fire service personnel office and warehouses was also razed.

The market’s Chairman, Chief Innocent Ezeoha, who spoke to journalists, confirmed that goods worth millions of naira were burnt.

“Information got to me that the fire started at about 4am and I immediately rushed to the scene. The two-storey building housing the police block, Onitsha North LGA office, fire service and warehouses had already been razed before rescue teams came from Asaba, Delta State and Awka,” Ezeoha.

The market’s Secretary, Mr Barth Obiorah, said, “The fire raged for over two hours before fire service men from Awka arrived and those of Asaba also came later.

“We lost a lot to the early morning fire, the entire wares and items turned to ashes in the building housing those offices.”

A dealer in textile materials, John Ugoh, said, “I lost everything in my five shops. I cannot immediately estimate the cost of my losses, but I can tell you that it is over N20m.”

Another victim, Stella-Marris Okeke, said, “I had two shops of home and office decoration items such as clothing and fitting materials. The two shops were all razed down, and I lost everything. I cannot immediately estimate the cost now as I am too devastated right now.”

Another victim, Ngozi Udeh, also said she lost one of her two shops of empty sacks, adding that she was too emotionally devastated to estimate the cost of her losses.

As of the time of filing this report, the state fire chief, Martin Agbili, could not be reached for reactions as he did not take calls nor respond to messages to his telephone line.

The state Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Tochukwu Ikenga, when contacted, said, “The details of the fire incident are still sketchy but the situation is under control as fire-fighters and policemen are there.”

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