OnitshaTraders and small scale industrialists lost goods and properties worth millions of naira yesterday in Onitsha following an early morning fire that gutted the polythene dealers market, Nwaizu Estate, Awada. Three businessmen, who could not withstand the enormity of their losses allegedly attempted suicide by jumping into the raging fire but hey were later rescued by fellow traders. When Daily Sun reporter visited the market yesterday morning, billows of smoke covered everywhere, while parts of the market were still on fire even as the traders watched helplessly as nothing was recovered from the inferno.
Scores of distraught shop owners in the market said the inferno started in the market at about 2am, after a storm with claps of thunder ripped through the area and a nearby shop caught fire which spread to the entire market.
Giving further insight on the incident, the Chairman of Progressive Polythene Dealers Welfare Association, Mr. Vincent Elechi, said the traders had suffered terrible losses and regretted that the situation would have been salvaged if the state fire service had responded promptly.
“From our findings, it was the electric pole at the entrance of the market that caught fire when thunder struck. But immediately I got the information, I alerted the state fire service and they promised to come, but later said they needed to refill their water tank. By the time they arrived, everywhere was on fire because our products are highly inflammable. We have more than 3,000 traders and small scale industrialists here but all our years of toiling have been reduced to ashes. Though we are still counting our losses, presently more than N500 million has gone down the drain,’’ he said.
Corroborating the chairman’s claims, the Vice Chairman of the market, Francis Ubakasi, said some people were rescued from the fire when they attempted suicide.
He stated that the market served the polythene needs of Nigerians and some African countries, while some of them borrowed money from the banks to finance the procurement of their machine tools.
The traders appealed to the state government to come to their aid to cushion the effect of their losses.