Several people were feared dead and others injured when a six-storey plaza in the heart of the popular Balogun Market in Lagos State was gutted by fire on Thursday.
The News Agency of Nigerian (NAN) reports that the plaza is surrounded by several important businesses, which include Union Bank, Diamond Bank and the United Bank for Africa.
NAN also observed that the plaza, which was being used as a wholesale and retail outlet for shoes and bags, is directly beside and attached to the Union Bank building.
NAN investigations revealed that the fire started at about 9am and was battled by a team of combined fire fighters from the Union Bank and UBA before the arrival of the Lagos State Fire Service.
Some eyewitnesses, who spoke to NAN, said some people who jumped out from various floors of the burning plaza to escape the fire were carried away dead.
Mallam Hamza Abdullahi, a trader in the market, told NAN that he saw three dead bodies and five people who were wounded.
Abdullahi said: “People were shouting and jumping down from upstairs. I saw a woman dead with her skull open.”
Florence Adewunmi, a staff of the Lagos State Ambulance Mobile Intensive Care Service, stationed at the scene, told NAN that some victims had been stabilised and transferred to hospital.
Adewunmi said: “There are several casualties. We got a distress call at about 10am that there was fire outbreak at Balogun behind UBA. We proceeded here and learnt that they have rushed some people to General Hospital, Lagos but we met some casualties on ground.
“The patients jumped from the second, third and fourth floors and had fractures and various degrees of injuries. There were those that inhaled too much smoke so we gave some oxygen, some Dyclofenac injection. We treated ankle dislocations. We sutured deep cuts before carrying them to General Hospital, Lagos. So far, we have carried six people to hospital and discharged four after treatment.”
One of shop owners, who deals in female shoes, Nonso Christian, told NAN that he came to the plaza at 10am and met it on fire.
Christian said: “I met the plaza on fire and I tried to go in to bring out my goods but I couldn’t because the fire is too much. My shop is on the second floor and I just re-stocked on Monday. I don’t know what to do because the second floor is still on fire.”
Several other shop owners, who were wailing while watching the fire, declined comment.
One of them simply said: “We are sad. This hard economy, where do I start from?”
A security man attached to Union Bank, Umoru Monday, told NAN that the fire started a few minutes before 9am.
Monday said: “The Union Bank Fire Service came around and started pushing the fire back so that it would not enter the bank and later the fire fighters from UBA came to assist them before the Lagos State Fire Service came.”
An official of the Lagos State Fire Service carrying a cylinder on his back into the burning plaza declined comment.
He told NAN that senior officers of the service who could speak to press were attacking the fire on various floors.
He said: “I cannot tell you anything. Our fire boss is up in that burning building now and our main aim is to put the fire out. We are attacking it on various floors.”
NAN reports that a lone Policeman battled to keep spectators away, while security men of Diamond Bank situated beside Union Bank turned their customers away.