Over 20 houses and several shops were, on Saturday, destroyed by fire in the Kosofe area of Mile 12, a densely populated community in Lagos State, rendering dozens of families homeless.
The incident, which occurred on Adebimpe Street, saw most of the houses built with wood and corrugated iron sheets reduced to ashes.
According to findings by our correspondent, who visited the area on Sunday, the fire started after the stove a woman named Iya Dada was using to cook food caught fire, forcing her to throw it in front of the house, where it came in contact with a keg of petrol being conveyed by a passerby.
In a matter of minutes, the fire was said to have spread across the area, ravaging houses and anything standing in its way.
Iya Dada, whose husband left the house with their son a few minutes before the incident to buy an item at a nearby shop, was badly burnt by the inferno and is currently battling for her life at the Gbagada General Hospital.
The woman was initially rushed to a private hospital on Oduntan Street in Kosofe and the General Hospital, Ikorodu, but was rejected before being moved to Gbagada.
The man carrying the keg of petrol sustained minor injuries and is receiving treatment at an unknown location, according to the residents.
Speaking on their losses, one of the leaders of the community, Oluwo Alapini, told our correspondent that the fire was made worse by people storing petrol illegally in their houses for sale.
According to him, several reports made to the police in the past have failed to solve the problem because after collecting kickbacks from those in the illicit business, the law enforcement agents usually look the other way.
He said, “The fire has taken away everything we have. It consumed everything we ever worked for. We couldn’t save anything. My children and I no longer have a place to sleep. All those, who pretended to be helping us to rescue what was left, stole from us.
“The fire was made worse by the high quantity of petrol that people illegally stored in their houses for sale.
“We have made several reports to the police but each time they come here, they collect money from those in the illegal business. They don’t arrest them.
“We can’t quantify our losses; it’s a very tragic incident for all of us living in this community, because we have been rendered homeless by the fire.”
A young lady, Faisat Tijani, who was seen crying on the spot where her family house once stood, told our correspondent that all her academic certificates had been consumed by the fire, and expressed fears as to what the future held for her.
She said, “I was in the house with my younger sibling when the fire started; we had to run out to avoid being burnt alive.
“We couldn’t save any of our belongings. My certificates got burnt in the fire.”
Most residents of the area, who told our correspondent that they were not at home when the fire started, said they had to rush down to the community to see if they could salvage their belongings when alerted of the incident.
Four fire service trucks from Ikeja, were said to have helped to extinguish the fire on Saturday even though our correspondent still saw smoke coming out of the rubble on Sunday morning.
The spokesperson for the Lagos State Fire Service, Mrs Bola Ajao, confirmed the incident, adding that the affected structures were shanties made of combustible materials.
“The fire incident happened on Adebimpe Street, Church Avenue, Kosofe, close to the First Bank in Mile 12.
“Three fire stations at Alausa, Ikeja and Ilupeju responded to the distress call around 8.05pm and returned around 11.59pm.”
She quoted the acting Director, Lagos State Fire Service, Rasaki Musibau, as advising residents to be safety conscious and always call the attention of the agency to fire outbreaks instead of attempting to extinguish fires by themselves.