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Early morning fire gulps goods, valuables in Rivers state

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Amaechi Okonkwo, Port Harcourt.

Goods and property, worth millions of naira were destroyed in an early morning fire in Rumuagholu community, Obio/Akpor local government area of Rivers state on Monday.

Reports have it that the fire occurred at about 2am when a thick smoke was seen from one of the shops billowing into the atmosphere.

An eye witness told journalists that over 17 shops, stocked with assortment of goods were razed in the inferno, coming barely two weeks after a similar incident razed over 20 shops at Okwalle Waterfront in the Mile 2 axis of Port Harcourt, the state capital.

He decried the attitude of the firefighters who he said usually arrived after fire might have been extinguished.

Some of the affected traders who spoke to our correspondent said they received telephone calls informing them of the incident, saying they did not recover anything when they raced to the scene.

“This shop you are seeing now is mine. Early this morning, my brother called me to say that there was a fire at our shops in T-junction here, Rumuagholu. Before we came here, everything was gone.

“All the shoes, bags, slippers that I sell here got burnt. I don’t know where to start from now,” one of them stated.

A female victim who was in tears said, “This morning they called me that my shop got burnt. So, by the time I came here, everything had been burnt to ashes.

“In this time of hardship this kind of thing is happening. Where am I going to start from now? I want the government to come and help us because we don’t have any hope again.

“I sell shoes. Look at how I was sitting before my friends came to console me. I don’t know what caused it but people that came early that morning said they saw people trying to break some shops to prevent the fire from spreading to other places,” she added.

On his part, another affected trader, who gave his name as Elekwashi Sunday, said he lost over N3-million to the fire outbreak.

“I deal in garri, rice, beans and other foodstuff. What I have lost here is close to N3.5million because they just offloaded goods from yesterday. It is only God that knows the kind of pain that I am going through now.”

Sunday decried the absence of firefighters to help put out the fire, even as he called on the state government to come to their aid.

On the cause of the fire outbreak, some residents, who assisted in putting it out, said it was electrical fault.

“The thing started around 3am this morning till 6am today from the electric pole. Maybe it is the connection that caused it,” a female resident stated.

Another resident said, “We found out that all this happened because of an electrical fault. Nobody recovered anything here. Even some people that have two to three shops didn’t recover anything. It is very painful. So, I think this is when we need the government most,” he said.

The public relations officer of the Rivers state police command, Nnamdi Omoni, could not be reached for comments as he neither answered several calls put across to him by our correspondent nor replied a text message sent to his mobile telephone, as at the time of filing this report.

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