• Victims agonise as FCTA move to demolish shops
Barely a week after kerosene explosion killed persons and destroyed property worth millions at Kubwa Ultra Modern Market in Bwari Area Council of Abuja, normalcy seems to have returned as business activities have peaked in the market.
But, those who lost their loved ones in the tragic incident are left to nurse the wounds, while some survivors agonise in pain at some hospitals in the capital city.
Apart from the debris left by the explosion, there wasn’t much else to show that such monumental tragedy occurred at the scene, when The Guardian visited yesterday.
However, a victim, Virginus Oleru, 49, who lost his two daughters, Chioma and Angel, and has his wife hospitalised at the National Hospital, Abuja, with serious burns is yet to recover from the shock.
Chioma, 14 and Angel, who was barely 21 months, were at the scene of the incident, where their mother, Mrs. Oleru sold foodstuff.
When The Guardian visited Mr. Oleru’s family house, he said no one really knew the cause of the fire as there was total blackout in the area when the outbreak occurred.
The father of five said: “It all happened in my presence. My youngest daughter (Angel) was not feeling well, so I took her to the house of one of my brothers, who lives nearby. We stayed at my brother’s place for close to three hours. So I came back around 7:00p.m to give my sick daughter her medication as prescribed by the doctor.
“When I came back home, my wife and one of my daughters, Chioma (now deceased) were still outside trading. So I gave Angel to Chioma to carry, so I could get her medication inside the house.
“Immediately I went into the compound and was about to open the door, I heard a very loud noise from outside. When I heard that noise and the level of fire I saw from there, I concluded that all my family had gone. I tried going outside, but the fire prevented me. My neighbours also came outside, but we couldn’t put out the fire. I haven’t seen that kind of fire before in my life. So, I had to follow another road to get outside.
“Thank God that firefighters responded early and they started to pour water. But I couldn’t wait.
“Immediately, I went to the scene, where I saw my baby lying lifeless, but I couldn’t find my wife and other daughter. I walked all through the dead bodies, but still couldn’t find them. I counted about 20 dead bodies.
“It was while doing that my other two kids, who were not at the scene, told me that they saw their mother rushing Chioma to the hospital.”
Oleru said his wife and daughter were rejected at the Kubwa General Hospital for lack of bed, but were accepted at the National Hospital, where Chioma died in the early morning of Saturday.
He said one of his neighbours, Okechukwu Achiamole, also a family member, lost his pregnant wife to the explosion.
He said the deceased, Chigozie Atomonye, went to greet those selling foodstuff when the incident occurred.
He said: “She was heavily pregnant with two weeks remaining for her delivery, but she died in the accident.
“My other neighbour, Mr. Obinna also lost his 17-year-old daughter, while another 15- year -old daughter was injured.
Their mother sent them to buy Paracetamol tablets and they stopped over to play with their friends.”
When The Guardian visited the Burns and Plastic Unit of the National Hospital, Abuja, where most of the victims, who had high degree burns are undergoing treatment, family members passionately requested prayers and assistance from Nigerians.
The family members are trusting God for healing and restoration of the life of their wards, especially as they are in a very critical condition.
Some of them had between 80 and 90 per cent burn, six out of twelve brought to the hospital have passed on.
A middle aged teacher from Idah, Kogi State, Mata Ali, whose 25–year-old daughter, Rosemary, who graduated two months ago, was involved in the inferno, said the pain was unbearable and had shut up her Blood Pressure (BP).
She said: “My daughter just came to visit her uncle. Her uncle’s wife sells within the place the explosion happened. Her uncle’s wife travelled home for a marriage ceremony and she decided to help and sell when the accident happened. I heard it around11. 45p.m on Friday. Since that time, we have been praying and crying for her healing.”
According to her, the daughter just graduated from the Federal Polytechnic Idah, Kogi State two months ago and was looking forward to National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) Mobilisation. The nurses and doctors are doing their best, but the burns are so much.
Another caregiver, Blessing Mbah, whose younger sister, Nnenna was caught in the inferno, while trying to buy foodstuff after closing for the Day’s business, lamented that she was unable to recognise her sister due to the level of burns.
Nnenna, who is a mother of five, sells tomatoes along the road close to the market and her situation is getting complicated due to infection.
Also, Chinenye Umezinwa, whose sister in-law, was affected by the accident, said she was responding to treatment, but the pain was too much.
The Head of Public Relations Department, National Hospital, Dr. Tayo Haastrup told The Guardian that the victims were first taken to Kubwa General Hospital, but the Minister of State for FCT, directed that they be brought to the National Hospital due to the degree of the burns.
He said about four out of the 12 victims brought to the National Hospital died, while six were taken to the burns unit.
MEANWHILE, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), has marked most of the shops around the market for demolition.
The FCTA said the demolition of all shops along the road corridors was to create access for emergency operations.
Mrs. Precious Ezeugwu, who owns a beauty palace in one of the plazas, opposite the market expressed her displeasure over the incident and plans by the authority to demolish shops around the market.
She said they were given 24 hours’ notice to vacate the building as they are set to bring it down, noting that “this grieving period is not the right time to take such a decision.”
“I don’t think this is the right time to tell us to vacate because lives have gone, we are all in shock, so many things have happened, so it is not the right time to tell us to vacate or demolish our shops,” she said.