By Abdul-Lateef Ligali & Ebere Afam
Lagos—Tragedy struck yesterday after a family of seven were roasted in a fire that engulfed a building at Lawanson, Surulere, Lagos.
However, doctors at the Intensive Care Unit of Gbagada General Hospital are battling to save the life of the seventh member of the family, eight-year-old Chidinma who sustained serious burns.
Among those who lost their lives in the inferno, whose cause could not be immediately ascertained, were Mr. Kelechi Ali, his wife, Nkiru, Onoja, their baby boy of about three weeks old, their son, Favour, of about three years old.
Also killed in the fire were Onoja’s mother, who was on a visit to care for her nursing daughter, and two other children, aged eight and ten years respectively, who were said to have visited for the summer holiday.
The grandmother, said to be in her 60s, had reportedly concluded plans to return to her base at Nsukka , Enugu State yesterday before the unfortunate incident.
[covertplayersinglevideo trvideoid=”OR-pCyqmmj8″ trdisplaytype=”5″ trnumbervideosdisplay=”” trvideoperpage=”36″ trthumbnailwidth=”155″ trthumbnailheight=”100″ trpopupwidth=”500″ trpopupheight=”350″ trvideoalign=”left” trytautohide=”0″ trytautoplay=”1″ trytcontrols=”0″ trytrelvideo=”0″ trytshowlogo=”1″ trytshowtitle=”0″ tryttheme=”dark” trythighquality=”hd720″]The fire, it was gathered, started in Ali’s self-contained apartment located on 21, Michael Ogun street, Obele Lawanson, at about 11pm Tuesday while the family was asleep.
It reportedly raged for over an hour before the arrival of the fire service. Their shout for help alerted other residents but no one heeded the call.
Vanguard gathered that their charred remains were recovered in different positions by men of Lagos State Fire Service.
The charred remains of the father was said to have been mangled together with two of his children, while that of his wife was seen with her little baby on her chest.
When Vanguard visited the scene yesterday, those on rescue were still sighted clearing the debris. An eyewitness who identified herself as Abure Hanna, said: “A few minutes into my sleep, I heard voices which sounded like people were quarrelling.
‘’Later, I heard shout of fire from the next compound. I ran out and started calling neighbours to come and help. I think the fire had been on for about 30 minutes before I came out. The fire service came late to the scene after the fire had been doused by residents.”
Another resident, who pleaded anonymity, stated that the family members could have been rescued had neighbours went for their rescue on time.
“Everybody stayed put in their houses even when the family was shouting for help. This is because of the lingering quarrel between the family and their neighbours.
‘’As you can see , there are three houses in the compound but the middle one occupied by the Onojas was the one affected. This is not ordinary because even the connecting wires to other buildings were not affected.“
Traditional ruler breaks down
The traditional ruler of Surulere, High Chief Kareem Jinadu Awoyemi, broke down in tears as he arrived the scene, blaming other neighbours for not rising to the help of the affected family.
Awoyemi said: “There are issues brought to me that occupants of the three buildings in the compound were never in good terms.
‘’This is just too much. How could this type of thing escalate to this level when the victims had neighbours?.“ At this point, he stopped, shook his head and burst into tears again before leaving the scene.
Attempt to burn other buildings foiled
When news of the neglect by other neighbours filtered round, some aggrieved persons suspected to be members of the deceased family attempted to burn down the two other buildings whose tenants were accused of turning deaf ears to their relatives’ cry for help.
[covertplayersinglevideo trvideoid=”1Jc4EZtTHrI” trdisplaytype=”5″ trnumbervideosdisplay=”” trvideoperpage=”36″ trthumbnailwidth=”155″ trthumbnailheight=”100″ trpopupwidth=”500″ trpopupheight=”350″ trvideoalign=”left” trytautohide=”0″ trytautoplay=”1″ trytcontrols=”0″ trytrelvideo=”0″ trytshowlogo=”1″ trytshowtitle=”0″ tryttheme=”dark” trythighquality=”hd720″]Attempt by some sympathisers to stop this move resulted in an altercation that almost led to a fight. It took the intervention of policemen from Surulere Division, led by the DPO, Mr Monday Agbonika, to arrest the situation.
But when Vanguard approached him at the scene, he declined comments, referring Vanguard to the State Police Public Relations Officer.
One of the aggrieved relatives who refused to disclose his identity said: “The family went to the market yesterday to get items for the mother-in-law as their tradition demands to celebrate the arrival of the new born baby after one month of Omugwo.
‘’This morning, they were supposed to go to the village, the man has already purchased bus tickets and now they are dead. The father was a trader who sold sewing materials on Lagos Island, while his wife, is a parishioner at Saint Mulumba Catholic Church, Lawanson, Lagos.’’
Donations for survivor
Meanwhile, a man was seen collecting money from sympathisers . When asked what the money was meant for, the man who spoke on condition of anonymity, said : “We are donating for the treatment of the little girl that is in the hospital. Chidinma (survivor ) is in critical condition in the hospital and we are doing all we can to ensure her survival. Doctors said she has a fifty-fifty chance of survival.’’
Lagos State Fire Service Director, Rasaq Fadipe, said fire trucks were deployed to the scene immediately the distress call was received.