An early morning fire on Sunday burnt down eight shops and six residential buildings including a law chamber at Nelson Mandela and Targets roads, in Calabar, the Cross River State capital.
This came just as a member of National Youth Service Corps, Ifeanyi Uche, escaped electrocution while trying to put the fire out.
The fire, according to an eyewitness, Mr. Etim Young, started from a hair dressing salon about 4.30 am as a result of power surge.
It was learnt that neighbours who noticed the fire on time attempted to forcibly open the shop and put out the fire but their efforts were thwarted by a big iron at the shop’s door.
About two hours after the fire had started, men of the fire service arrived but could not salvage anything.
According to an eyewitness, the corps member who wanted to help remove some things in one of the shops, was shocked by an electric wire.
Another eyewitness, Mercy Okon, said, “Fire started from the salon shop and spread to other shops. We called the fire service and there was no response. A cab driver who saw what was happening asked his passengers to alight and headed for the fire service. When they came, they could not stop the fire. They said they had run out of water.”
One of the victims, Chief Onyekachi Agu, said, “I am not comfortable to speak now. I don’t know how to start it. I have over N4m worth of goods in the shop and a cash of N110, 000.
“I just came back from market on Friday. I plead with government to assist me financially. I’m short of words. Nothing was rescued here. The whole grinding, petrol engines and generators were burnt.”
Another victim, Mr. Remi Agwuzie, whose Law Chamber and wife’s shop were affected said he had to rush down when he was alerted.
He said he met fire-fighters on the ground but the men could not do much because the pressure from the hose they came with was not enough to put out the fire.
Agwuzie said by the time neighbours put out the fire, the fire had razed virtually everything in his office and his wife’s shop.
“People could not remove a pin. I was only lucky that I removed some of the vital documents. My happiness is that I was able to remove my school certificates that were the paramount thing,” he stated.
But another tenant, Joe Ezike, said he was unlucky as all the vital documents and goods in his shop got burnt.
When contacted, the state’s director of fire service Mr. Sylvester Duke, said his office was informed of the incident late.
Duke, who said he was also at the scene, added that the fire station at Mary Slessor did not have firefighting engine but relied on Quick Intervention Squad.
According to Duke, when it was discovered that the vehicle of QIS had a problem, he had to rush to the fire service department of the Nigerian Ports Authority.
The Director General, State Emergency Management Agency, Mr. Vincent Aqua, described the level of destruction as monumental as goods worth several millions of naira were destroyed.
Agua, who was represented by the Assistant Director, David Akate, said 12 persons were displaced, while six residential buildings and eight shops were razed.