Port Harcourt—Goods property worth millions of naira have been destroyed following a gas explosion from a fire incident in a set of apartments at Awkwuzu Street in the Diobu area of Mile One in Port Harcourt on Tuesday.
Also, over 20 affected occupants of the building precisely on No. 9 Awkwuzu Street were displaced owing to the intensity of the explosion.
The Punch newspaper reports that while many of the affected residents watched the raging fire helplessly consuming their property, amidst wailing, a thick black smoke billowed into the atmosphere.
Eyewitnesses said the fire started at about 8am when a faulty gas from one of the rooms exploded and spread to the other apartments.
One of the affected occupants Esther, who spoke to the newspaper said the fire started from the roof of a woman who left her cooking gas on and went to the hospital.
While noting that the camp gas was faulty, she said the woman didn’t know she hadn’t properly turned the gas off before leaving home.
The lady while narrating the incident in an emotionally laden voice said none of the occupants was able to salvage any property from the building due to the speed of the inferno.
She stated, “Somebody, a woman, unknowingly left her gas on. You know how this camp gas behaves when the regulator is bad.
“Probably, she turned it off thinking it was off but I think she didn’t observe it well. So she took it inside her apartment, locked the door and left for the clinic.
Before people could realise, it had burnt and exploded. That was the cause of the fire. Unfortunately nobody was able to pick anything out of the place. The place was completely razed.”
Another resident said it was unfortunate that for nearly two hours that the fire was on, firefighters did not show up to try to put it out.
“No fire service came, either from the state or federal. If they came at least some people would have rescued some valuables of other property,” he lamented.
He said aside personal property and buildings lost to the fire, about five shops belonging to traders in front of the building were also consumed in the inferno.
It was reported that earlier, police from the Mile One Division were on the ground to ensure that hoodlums didn’t catch in on the situation to loot peoples’ property when the fire started.
The situation attracted sympathizers and onlookers some of whom were half dressed, while those in the opposite building hurriedly carried some valuable property for fear of the fire spreading to towards their direction.
When contacted, the Commander, Federal Fire Service in Rivers State, Abdul Alfa said he was aware of the incident, but expressed regrets that its men were not able to get to the scene because their operational vehicles were under maintenance.
While sympathizing with the affected residents, he said the federal fire service under his watch responds to every distress call on that nature but that it was handicapped due to the situation of its vehicles.
Alfa stated, “Not that we didn’t turn up. The problem is that our vehicles are of the road. They are under maintenance.
“But I tried to call the fire department from some of the companies here in Port Harcourt to see how they can assist. If our vehicles are in order what are waiting for? It is our job and we don’t waste time in responding to such distress calls because we know it is an emergency situation.”