Over 200 tents and properties worth millions of naira were razed on Tuesday after a wildfire gutted some parts of the popular Gujungu market in Jigawa State, northwest Nigeria.
The Executive Secretary of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) Mr Yusuf Sani Babura, confirmed the incident to Channels Television saying that the cause of the outbreak is yet to be ascertained.
According to him, however, the incident may have been linked to the activities of the traders around the market especially those using fire to roast fish and other related businesses.
The chairman of the market, Alhaji Salisu Dan’azumi, lamenting over the incident, noted that property worth over N10 million was destroyed before the fire could be put out.
A fire swept through an unlicensed orphanage outside Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, killing 15 children, a local judge told AFP on Friday.
The building — which had not been authorized to operate as an orphanage since 2013 — housed about 66 children, said Raymonde Jean Antoine.
The fire in Kenscoff — a town of 50,000 south of the capital — began shortly after 9:00 pm Thursday (0200 GMT Friday), she said.
Two children died in the blaze and 13 others died at a local hospital as a result of smoke inhalation, the judge added.
The cause of the fire and the victims’ ages were not immediately known.
The two-story building was in a state of complete disrepair, with bunk beds — some in deplorable condition — crammed into small rooms, a cramped staircase and only one usable exit door, an AFP reporter saw.
A fire scene defines disarray – the thick, black smoke and flames shooting up from buildings, fire-trucks and busy firefighters engaging the inferno, trying to keep the flames from spreading. The tension is always as thick as the smoke, and a dark mood hovers.
Balogun market, on Martins street, where at least two fire incidents have been recorded in the space of two months, now looks like a mini-war zone with the blaze leaving a mark of abandonment, mountainous rubble, collapse and different degrees of damage.
During the last fire incident, on January 29, many traders watched buildings go down with their goods in them. Some made frantic efforts to salvage as many goods as they could in adjoining buildings. They threw well-wrapped cartons down, hurriedly moving them to a different location.
Now that the flames are gone and the dust has settled, the attention has again shifted from the market, but how are the traders faring? What are the current efforts of the government and its agencies to clean up and maintain safety measures in the market?
Channels TV, recently, went back to the market.
The generator problem
During the last fire at the market, at least seven buildings were affected. The cause was rumoured to be a result of a generator accident. However, when we visited, the generators remained a ubiquitous sight.
A 30KVA generator, which weighs up to 1,500 kilograms, sat on a suspended floor. The roaring machines are a common sight at the clustered and congested market where space remains a high-priced merchandise.
As unattractive and scary as a hung generator may look to everyone visiting the popular wholesale market, it is somewhat a sign of success among traders. Not every trader can afford to buy one of these heavy equipment, let alone place it that high.
The Lagos state Governor, Babajide Sanwoolu during his visit to the market in November, decried the attitude of the traders to safety regulations. He said the generators must be brought down, but as at our last check many of the buildings still have the generators on suspended floors.
The Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) confirmed that the blaze that destroyed some buildings in November last year started from a generator. A similar cause was cited when nine buildings were razed earlier in the month.
According to the LASEMA boss, Dr Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, a trader tried to refuel an active generator; it caught fire and spurned an inferno that lasted for hours.
A conspiracy theory
The generator as the main fire trigger is a popular story around the market but there are other accounts brewing from suspicion. Some traders suspect arson. There are allegations that the fire incidents are not mere coincidence, but the work of a government agency involved in sabotage.
A trader at the market, Anedu St. Michael said the Central Business District (CBD), an agency of the state government, is taking advantage of the market’s merchants.
“They have turned this place to an ATM machine, they come here on a weekly basis, like for example here on Christmas period, we settled them with not less than N200,000,” he said. “This January they came again to tell us that the money we paid them has expired, that we have to contribute another N300,000 to give them. I begin to suspect that CBD is behind these fire incidents.”
However, the men of the CBD denied these allegations, they say they are only doing their job. As part of their operation of sanitizing and promoting orderliness, they go into the market clearing and seizing goods under distressed buildings where traders use as make-shift shops to spread their merchandise.
It stays the same
Everything at the market still points to the lack of safety – large amounts of flammable materials are stored in the buildings, generators are suspended on floors, vehicular access into the market is very difficult owing to congestion, a reason firefighters have cited among the challenges of putting out fires when they break out in the market.
The Director-General Lagos State Safety Commission (LASSC), Lanre Mojola, during the post-incident investigation said they have identified some cracked buildings and sealed them up for safety purposes. They have, but getting the traders to keep a safe distance from the buildings is a different matter altogether – scavengers are seen in partially collapsed buildings trying to profit from the rubble.
LASEMA had also promised to conduct an integrity test on the affected buildings and pull down the unfit ones to avert another danger at the market but the buildings, the ones affected by the fire, are left standing while people carry on with their usual activities.
Meanwhile, the Lagos state government says it is planning a total regeneration of Lagos Island, a move it hopes will solve the recurring problems of building collapse and fire outbreak.
During his last visit to the market, Governor Sanwo-Olu admitted that there are buildings standing idly that could endanger the lives of the people. “We also have abandoned high-rise buildings on the Island and we have done audit of all these buildings,” he said, “we need to have a conversation with the owners on how we can put the abandoned property to better use.”
One of those buildings is the ‘Great Nigeria House’. It is one of the tallest in Nigeria; it once housed a bank and also serves as warehouses to some traders. A 2013 inferno got the best part of the building leaving it condemned and unsafe.
While Balogun market, known for its wide selection of colourful Nigerian fabrics, still attracts a lot of people, despite the loss of goods worth millions of Naira, the post-incident action of appropriate authorities is not only needed to keep the market and the traders in business but to also guarantee the protection of lives and property.
At least 10 people in India were killed when their bus made contact with a roadside power line and caught fire, officials said late Sunday.
The accident occurred in the eastern state of Odisha, near Mandarajpur, when part of the bus carrying about 40 passengers ignited after touching an 11-kilovolt power line, the Press Trust of India cited a police officer, Sadar Jayant Kumar Mohapatra, as saying.
Five other people were in critical condition, a hospital emergency officer in Cuttack city said, according to PTI.
Initial investigations suggested the luggage carrier of the bus touched the power line when the bus driver tried to give way to a two-wheeled vehicle on the narrow road, PTI quoted Chief Fire Officer Sukant Sethi as saying.
Three American crew helping to battle Australia’s devastating bushfires were killed Thursday when their water-bombing plane crashed in mountainous terrain during a sortie to tackle another outbreak of the deadly blazes.
Officials said the Hercules C-130 plane erupted in a large fireball on impact in a national park the Snowy Mountains shortly before 1:30 pm (0230 GMT).
The cause of the crash was not immediately known, but New South Wales Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons had said earlier in the day that high winds were making flying the water tankers “very difficult”.
“We’ve got a number of firefighters and a number of crew that are in the area and working to contain and work around the fire,” Fitzimmons said.
The incident brought the death toll in Australia’s bushfires to at least 32 since the crisis began in September.
The highly experienced US firefighting trio was working for Canadian firm Coulson Aviation, which had been contracted to help fight the fires.
State Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the crash highlighted the danger faced by firefighters as they attempted to extinguish massive blazes across Australia’s southeast.
“There are in excess of 70 aircraft that have been used today alone and today is a stark and horrible reminder of the dangerous conditions that our volunteers, (and) our emergency services personnel… (face) on a daily basis,” she said.
The crash happened as at least seven fires, whipped up by scorching temperatures and strong winds, flared to emergency status following a brief lull brought by rain and cooler temperatures.
Bushfires also forced the closure of Canberra Airport Thursday, with all flights in and out of the country’s capital suspended to allow the deployment of aerial firefighting crews to battle the approaching flames.
Temperatures soared to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in Sydney, where a bushfire also broke out in a northwestern suburb of Australia’s biggest city.
Wind gusts had been forecast to reach 90 kilometres per hour (55 miles per hour) in some areas, but Fitzsimmons said the winds were stronger than expected, especially in the fire-ravaged southeast.
Unprecedented bushfires fuelled by climate change have devastated vast swathes of the country since September, destroying more than 2,000 homes and burning 10 million hectares (100,000 square kilometres) of land — an area larger than South Korea or Portugal.
Scientists estimate that one billion animals have died in fires, which environmental groups say have driven many species closer to extinction.
The blazes have been followed by extreme weather that has hampered clean-up operations in some areas, including intense storms that have battered parts of Australia with giant hail, floods and landslides.
Heavy rainfall has helped to contain and, in some cases, extinguish long-running blazes but an expected return to searing heat and gusting winds Thursday was flagged as a cause for concern as dozens of fires continued to burn.
Cooler weather was forecast to return on Friday, but the bushfire season still has weeks left to run.
Coulson Aviation, which owned the crashed Hercules, said it had grounded operations of its other large air tankers “pending review” of the aircraft.
The company said it was “deeply saddened” to confirm the three fatalities, adding it would send a team to the crash site to assist in emergency operations.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the three crew members onboard,” the Coulson family said in a statement.
The months-long bushfire crisis has sparked renewed calls for Australia’s conservative government to take immediate action on climate change, with street protests urging Prime Minister Scott Morrison to reduce the country’s reliance on coal.
A major coal conference in Wollongong — situated in a coal-producing region south of Sydney that has been hit by massive blazes — was cancelled this week in response to what local climate activists said was a “planned mass protest”.