Traders wept profusely yesterday as fire burnt goods believed to be worth millions of Naira at the Ogbeogonogo Market in Asava, Delta State.
For over five hours, the market was on fire as smoke rose from the lock-up shops.
Hundreds of market women, including widows and members of the Market Women Association, were running helter-skelter with their hands on their foreheads, as they scooped water from the nearby gutter to combat the inferno.
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has promised to give assistance to victims of the fire.
The fire, which started early in the morning, razed down lock-up shops and destroyed perishable and finished goods.
However, no life was lost.
Over 40 shops at the old line of the market were burnt before men of the State Fire Service arrived the scene.
A widow, who identified herself as Madam Glory, said she did not salvage a pin from her shop.
According to her, she was at home preparing for the market when she received a call from an unknown person.
She said: “I had prepared to come to the market when they called me that fire had burnt down my shop. The first fire service tanker ran out of water as the fire kept wreaking havoc on the market.
“As at 9:26a.m., the fourth fire service truck arrived even as we were fetching water from the gutter that leads to the River Niger from the market to combat the fire. Government should have a mini-fire service station near the market to stop the yearly fire outbreak in the market.”
The cause of the fire could not be ascertained at press time.
While some people linked it to power surge, others said it was sabotage.
A hawker in the market said the outbreak might have been caused by carelessness on the part of some market women.
She said: “Many women don’t switch off their electrical appliances when market closes. They want their freezers to remain cold so as to sell sachet water, soft drinks and frozen foods whenever there is light. Others by-passed wire from one shop to the other illegally. The result is what has happened. The state and local government in charge of the market should come to our aid because this is where we feed our families, pay house rents and pay school fees of our children.”
One of the fire figthers decried the nearness of the shops which aided the fire and prevented his colleagues from gaining immediate access into the market.
The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Ms Onome Onovwakpoyeya, said the police were there to calm the tension in the neighbourhood and to prevent miscreants from hijacking the situation.
She said: “Thank God no life was lost. The police and fire service personnel were able to ensure that the fire did not escalate to the new site. For now, we are yet to ascertain the possible cause of the fire. It was a daylight fire outbreak: we tried to safeguard lives and property.”
Meanwhile, Mr Okowa, who visited the market to inspect the extent of damage by the inferno, promised that the state government would assist the traders affected to get back on their feet.
He said: “I have just finished inspecting the burnt section of the Ogbeogonogo market here in Asaba. There was a fire incident in the market this morning but it is the old market that was affected and the new section was not affected.”