A serious midnight fire outbreak has razed open stalls as well as locked stores at the Odopetu Market in Akure, the Ondo State capital.
The fire started close to 2 a.m. on Thursday, destroying foodstuff and other goods worth millions of naira, according to estimates by forlorn traders. A correspondent of SaharaReporters visited the scene of the fire and reported that most of the victims were residents of Akure metropolis. Some of the affected traders at the burnt market disclosed that they dealt in various kinds of foodstuff and locally made goods.
One of the beset traders, Iyabo Omosule, told our correspondent that the fire claimed the entire foodstuff and much of other goods in the market. “Our goods have turned into ashes due to this fire,” said Ms. Omosule. She added, “Many of us sell grains, beans, bags of rice, tubers of yam, household equipment, baby clothes and other goods.” She said more than fifty traders would be displaced by the fire that wrecked the second section of the Odopetu Market.
The trader said no there was no human casualty, but that the fire consumed goods worth millions of naira. She disclosed that a representative of the Oba of Akure had asked affected traders to take stock of the extent of damage in the market and forward their estimates to the relevant institutions of government.
Another trader, John Oladipupo, who lost all his goods, stated that five hours after the fire began, firefighters were still battling to put it out. Mr. Oladipupo added that the fire had already destroyed all the goods in the shops and locked up containers before fire service agents arrived at the scene.
“Although the [firefighters] tried their best and were able to put out the fire to avert more destruction, we, the store owners, lost everything.” He said the fire was particularly dire as owners of the burnt shops were local traders who had recently stocked up on foodstuff and other goods to sell during the festive Christmas season.
Another victim, a landlord named Muyiwa Adegoke, who is close to the market, said he was furious that some thieves burgled the shops and looted goods as soon as the fire started. “We thought they wanted to help protect some goods from being burnt by the fire. But, to our surprise, they looted the goods before the arrival of the firefighters,” he said.
Some of the affected traders told our correspondent to appeal to philanthropists in the city as well as the state government to offer them financial assistance to enable them to get back on their feet. “We are particularly begging Governor Olusegun Mimiko to assist us to cushion the effects of this disaster,” one of the traders said. Another added, “We depend solely on this business, and this is where we see money to cater for our children in school,” another trader said.
A firefighter, who asked not to be named, as he had no authorization to speak, told SaharaReporters that their response was timely. “Immediately, we received the distress call that the market was on fire we swung into action and moved in our truck. We couldn't ascertain the cause of the fire, but we noticed that all the roof of the market was already ablaze. If not for our timely response, the fire would have extended to other sections of the market, and it would have been a bigger disaster for the traders,” he said.
Two traders said they suspected the fire started from careless handling of cigarette butts.
“We know that some thugs always gained access into the open market to smoke weed (marijuana) and they might have carelessly dropped a butt of it inside the market,” one trader told our correspondent.