Disaster struck on Christmas Day in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, as more than 200 shops were burnt in a major plank market at Alaro area of Sango.
According to eyewitnesses, the fire started at around 3.00pm.
However, our correspondent, who visited the scene of the incident at 7.30pm, observed as men of the state fire service tried to put out the fire, which was still raging.
Some of them expressed fear that if they failed to put out the fire, it could extend to other shops overnight.
It was learnt that the fire was fuelled by the stockpile of planks and heaps of sawdust in the market. But as of the time of filing this report, the cause of the fire had yet to be established.
Some of the marketers estimated the loss to the fire incident to be over N250m.
Our correspondent learnt that one fire service truck was deployed to the market and observed as some of the traders, who feared that the fire could extend to other areas overnight, bought water to support the efforts of the fire service.
One of the traders, who gave his name as Adegoke, expressed anger at the fire service and described their efforts as “lame and inadequate”.
He said he left his shop around 2.30pm after attending to a customer who urgently needed some goods. He added that he was surprised when he received a call 30 minutes later that the market was on fire.
He said, “Since today (Friday) is Christmas, I decided to observe it at home like many of our members. But a customer called me on my mobile telephone while I was at home.
“He said he urgently needed to buy some planks, so I went to the shop. After the transaction, I closed the shop and went back home. I was still on the way when I got a call that some shops in the market had caught fire.”
He said he lost goods worth N3.5m.
“I am a medium-sized trader, but there are traders here with planks and equipment worth more than N5m in their shops,” he said. Apart from the planks, several sawing machines and other logging equipment were lost in the fire.
Reacting to the incident, a trader, Afolabi, said instead of bringing more fire service trucks to the scene, only one was sent, which had to leave the scene three times to get more water.
He said, “Each time the vehicle left to refill water, we lost more shops because the fire would gain more ground. Don’t forget that this is the time of the year when there are more fire incidents. More fire service vehicles are needed to forestall possible overnight fire here. As you can see, we now pay to bring water tanker to help the fire service men.”
Meanwhile, no fewer than 79 people died in 1,638 different fire incidents in Lagos State between January and November, 2015, the state Fire Service has said.
According to a statement by the spokesman for the service, Mr. Amodu Shakiru, on Friday in Lagos, the service also rescued 99 victims in the incidents recorded within that period.
It stated that property estimated at N16.38bn were lost in the incidents.
According to the statement, properties estimated at N98.28 bn were saved during the fire operations in the period under review.