Lagos fireworks blaze guts 10 buildings

2012-12-27 14:50
Local men try to fight a fire on Lagos Island in Lagos, Nigeria. (File, Jon Gambrell)

Local men try to fight a fire on Lagos Island in Lagos, Nigeria. (File, Jon Gambrell)

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Lagos - A fire that tore through a district of Nigeria's largest city after an explosion at a fireworks warehouse destroyed 10 buildings in addition to killing one person and wounding 40, an official said on Thursday.

Firefighters meanwhile worked to douse the remains of the fire that began on Wednesday morning in Lagos, and government officials pledged to investigate, saying storage of the fireworks in the crowded neighbourhood was illegal.

Building codes throughout Nigeria are often poorly enforced and calls to ban fireworks have gone unheeded.

Ibrahim Farinloye of the National Emergency Management Agency said 10 buildings housing a large number of small shops and apartments as well as multiple vehicles were razed by the fire.

"We recovered only one body while 40 people were injured," he said.

The fire tore through the crowded Jankara area of the city on Wednesday after the explosion at the building believed to be storing fireworks.

Rescue workers battling

"Government has put up a team of experts to determine the cause of the explosion. The government wants to know so that this sort of thing does not happen again," said Femi Osanyintolu, the head of the state-run emergency service LASEMA.

He said the state governor, Babatunde Fashola, was at the scene on Wednesday to inspect the damage.

"The governor wants to know why somebody had to store firecrackers and bangers in a building in contravention of the law against such a practice," he said.

Osanyintolu said rescue workers were still battling on Thursday to extinguish the remains of the fire as smoke rose from some areas.

"We have succeeded in stopping the fire from spreading further but the fire is still raging in some houses," he said.

Integrity test

"Our bulldozers are at the site. We have identified at least four buildings that have been weakened by the fire and three of them have been pulled down."

Farinloye said the government would conduct "an integrity test" on the adjoining houses in the area to determine if they are still habitable.

The blast and fire led to panic in the densely packed area of Lagos, a city of around 15 million people, with residents jumping from windows to flee and others salvaging goods from their shops in the neighbourhood's large market.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation with about 160 million people, and Lagos is considered the continent's second-largest city after Cairo.

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