By Sam Oditah
Umuahia – Victims of Wednesday’s fire at the Umuahia Industrial Market have appealed to the Abia government to come to their rescue to enable them to return to their business.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the timber section of the market was engulfed by a mid day fire on the New Year day.
The leadership of the market claimed that the fire destroyed 53 shops, together with 48 machines and other valuables worth several millions of naira.
Although the cause of the fire had yet to be ascertained, the traders feared that it could be wild fire from the bush that surrounded the market.
The Chairman of the market, Mr Austin Onyenweaku, said that they only got the information about the fire around 1pm.
“We cannot say exactly the cause of the fire or when it started. We only got a phone call around 1pm that the market was on fire.
“By the time we got here, the entire timber section was already engulfed by the inferno,” Onyenweaku said.
He said that it took the combined efforts of the state Fire Service personnel and traders to bring the fire under control.
He opined that the level of destruction could have been worse if the fire service did not respond in time.
Addressing the Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Cosmos Ndukwe, who was at the market on Thursday to ascertain the extent of damage, Onyenweaku said that they lost millions of property to the fire.
Also speaking, the Chairman of Umuahia Timber Dealers Association, Mr Ndubuisi Nwogu, expressed deep sorrow over the incident.
Nwogu said that their members suffered “colossal loss” to the fire, adding that “53 shops, 48 machines and other property were completely burnt.”
The two market leaders appealed to the state governmemt to come to their finsncial aid to enable them to start all over again.
In his remarks, the commissioner described the New Year day fire as “a very bad way to begin the year.”
He commiserated with the victims and assured them that Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu would personally visit the market to see things for himself.
“The governor asked me immediately he got the information to come here and see you and also ascertain the level of damage.
“He also asked me to convey his condolences to the leadership of the market and victims of the fire,” he said.
Ndukwe promised that the state government would set up a panel of inquiry to look into the cause of the fire.
He charged the leadership of the market to always take proactive measures, especially during the harmatan, to avoid a recurrence. (NAN)