Grief pervaded Ogunseye and Dipo Olubi streets, Aguda, Surulere, Lagos State, on Thursday following the tragic death of a family of five in an overnight fire.
The victims were a couple identified only as Hope (wife) and Hygnius and their three children, Ada, 9, Nonso, 7, and six-year-old Ugochukwu.
While the woman and the children died on the spot, Hygnius, who sustained first degree burns, died at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja.
PUNCH Metro learnt that the fire started around 2am from a makeshift shop on Dipo Olubi Street, where the family resided and spread to three other adjoining shops. Hope also used the shop for laundry service and selling confectionery.
Although the immediate cause of the inferno could not be ascertained, it was said that the sound of explosion was heard from the family’s shop shortly after electricity was restored in the area.
During a visit to the community, our correspondent saw burnt clothes, washing machine, and refrigerator, among other burnt household items.
The Chairman, Ogunseye Residents Association, Mr. Gbenga Orimolade, said his wife drew his attention to the incident some minutes after 2am.
Orimolade stated that men of the Lagos State Fire Service and the state emergency management agency joined residents to extinguish the fire around 3am.
He said, “I came out immediately my wife woke me up. Other residents also came out and we tried to put out the fire.
“Firefighters responded about 20 minutes after the fire started to assist us. We could not rescue the mother and her children. The husband died in the afternoon at LASUTH.
“I don’t know what caused the fire, but it started 10 minutes after power was restored. The couple were from the East; we have been trying to reach their family.”
An eyewitness, who gave his name only as Chibuzor, said, “The fire was caused by electrical fault. The security men said they heard an explosion from the shop. It was very unfortunate. Hope was energetic and was the one making all the money for the family.”
Another resident, Abiodun Adegoke, told PUNCH Metro that he was informed about the incident on the telephone.
Adegoke said, “We could not salvage anything from the wreckage. I saw burnt flesh. I learnt that the couple had initially come out of the shop. The woman went back to save the children, but was burnt to death together with them. The husband also attempted to rescue them.
“She was intelligent and responsible. She just paid about N100,000 for the school fees of all the three children. It was very tragic.”
The Director, Lagos State Fire Service, Mr. Rasaq Fadipe, who confirmed the deaths, urged residents to promptly alert the fire service whenever there was any fire incident.
“It might be that the laundry machine was faulty. People should make sure that their appliances are put off while going to sleep,” he added.
The General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Mr. Adeshina Tiamiyu, said the agency received a distress call from the community around 2.38am and responded promptly.
He said, “This prompted the immediate activation of the Lagos State Fire Service and LASEMA’s Emergency Response Team to the scene of the incident. Investigation conducted by the ERT at the scene of the incident revealed that the cause of the fire could not be ascertained. Further information revealed that the fire affected four shops.
“A family, which comprised the father, mother and three children sleeping in one of the shops, were affected by the fire. The corpses were recovered and handed over to the police at the Aguda Police Station.
“The timely intervention of the agency and the fire service prevented the fire from escalating to other nearby buildings.”
Meanwhile, a three-storeyed building under construction on Richard Abimbola Street, Ilasamaja, Lagos State, has collapsed, with several persons trapped in the wreckage while one person died.
It was learnt that the incident happened around 2pm.
A resident, who gave his name only as Ifeanyi said the construction of the building started six months ago.
“But surprisingly, early this month, I noticed that it had been built to that level. Six persons were brought out from the wreckage in my presence. They sustained injuries,” he said.
One of the victims, a bricklayer, Ope Falola, who had minor bruises, said he was at the back of the building when the structure caved in.
He said, “My phone battery was flat and I was trying to look for where to charge it. I was walking along the back of the building when it suddenly collapsed. Three of my friends were also trapped and sustained injuries.”
Another worker, Tosin Olaniyi, said, “I was working on the fence of the building with three others. I just heard a bang and the building came down on us. There was no sign that the building was distressed.”
The LASEMA General Manager, Tiamiyu, said 16 persons working on the site were injured and had been taken to hospitals.
He said, “A number of labourers were doing their various works at different areas. Sixteen of them have been rescued and some are being treated by the agency’s medical team and Lagos State Ambulance Service, while some had been rushed to hospitals.
“Extraction of trapped victims is ongoing and one mortality has been recorded at the moment (10pm on Thursday).”