It was an awful Saturday for many traders at Olaleye Market, Shomolu, Lagos State, as a night fire razed 227 shops in the marketplace.
The fire which started around 2am reportedly raged for hours, destroying goods and other items estimated at millions of naira.
It was gathered that the inferno was put out after a combined effort of firefighters from the Lagos State Fire Service and locals around the market.
The fire reportedly sparked off as a result of an electrical fault in one of the shops and spread to the adjoining stores housing foodstuffs, clothing and irons.
A meat seller, who passed the night around the market, Azeez Hassan, told our correspondent that he was awakened by the blaze.
While trying to quench the fire, he was trapped in a fence, sustaining injuries on his right hand and head.
He explained, “I live in Ibafo (Ogun State) but I usually pass the night around the market. The fire started around 1.30am. I woke up and raised an alarm. People joined me and we started struggling to put it out. While we were trying to prevent it from spreading to another block, a fence collapsed on me.
“We were on it when firefighters arrived. Two of them also sustained injuries. We were taken to the health centre in Akoka on the orders of the local government chairman. But when we got there, the health workers said they didn’t have drugs. They prescribed drugs for us and asked us to go and buy them.”
Our correspondent learnt that a number of shop owners trading in foodstuffs and provisions lost goods to the inferno.
“Owo jona (Valuables burnt)!” A trader identified simply as Mummy Bose, wailed, scrabbling through the rubble aimlessly. “I could not salvage anything,” the middle-aged, woman who sells rice, lamented.
Another woman, who gave her name as Tope, said her provision store was affected, adding that her business ran on loans.
“Who will help me now?” She queried tearfully. “How would I repay the loan? I am in a serious debt.”
Chairman, Ijebutedo Community Development Association under which the market was located, Mr Fatai Adeniyi, said hundreds of traders were affected by the tragedy, adding that only few of them were able to rescue their goods.