Seven family members burnt to death in night fire
The burnt building … Wednesday
SEVEN members of a family of eight were killed on Tuesday night when fire razed their self-contain apartment in Surulere, Lagos Mainland.
The fire was caused by candlelight while the family was asleep.
The lone survivor Chidinma (8) is lying critically ill in hospital.
The dead are Kelechi Onoja, 28, his wife, Nkiru, 18, two children Favour, 2 and her three-week-old brother. Others are the late Onoja's mother-in-law Mrs Okezie and her visiting two relatives.
A neighbour, Uzor Alajemba, said he heard shouts of “help!” “help!!” “help!!!” from the apartment, adding that when he came out, smoke had filled the whole compound.
He said: “I brought my family out of the house and called neighbours who alerted the fire fighters. I don't how it happened. I just rescued my family.”
Another resident, Tony Anslem said other tenants didn't raise the alarm on time,noting that by the time fire fighters arrived, it was too late to rescue them.
“We heard noise but we couldn't rescue them because there was a burglar-proof at the entrance of the house. Nkiru's mother was found burnt at the entrance of the door while trying to escape and the others were found on a mattress inside the room,” he said.
The late Onoja's sister, Obioma, in tears, said: “I live in Onipanu and I got the information this morning (yesterday), I was still happy that the house was burnt and not that they died until I got here. I don't know what to do ooo! I am in shock. He is my younger brother. See the way my brother died.”
Christiana Faleti, a resident, who took Chidinma to the hospital said: “Even before I came out, neighbours were busy pouring water from the ceiling because no one could access the entrance because of the burglar-proof. We rescued the girl from the toilet after the fire was put out; a fire service official heard someone cough and sadly we saw a burnt little girl almost lifeless. The Lagos State Ambulance came to carry her and we took her to Gbagada General Hospital, around 3am, but on getting there, she wasn't admitted because we had no money. So we came back home and neighbours gathered almost N50, 000 for her. I was scared. Her face has roasted. As a mother, I feel her pains.”
The late Mrs Onoja's brother, Michael Okezie, said their mother was to return to the village yesterday (Wednesday) after babysitting her grandchild for a month.
“Kelechi is my sister's husband and we hail from Enugu State. He sells curtain materials on Lagos Island. I am sad. Why is it only their building that burnt? Why did the neighbours run away? These are questions I haven't found answers to. Our mother went to the market on Tuesday to buy things for yesterday's journey. We planned to see the baby this Sunday. There is more to this. Why didn't they rescue them? Why?” he wondered in tears.
Baale of Surulere, Kareem Awoyemi, said he learnt the tenants were not in good terms with the Onojas even before the incident.
“They were not in talking terms with their neighbours; does that mean they shouldn't rescue them. None of them came out. All of them ran away. I was informed around 3am that they needed money to treat the survivor, which I contributed. The building is over 23 years and we have never had such incident before. It is painful,” Awoyemi said.
Another resident Ejike Eke-Opara said: “The fire was caused by candlelight because their light was disconnected few days ago because they couldn't afford the prepaid meter. They were the only ones without light and they have been using candle. The occupants of this compound are terrible. Is it because they weren't in good terms with them that they couldn't try their best to save them? It didn't affect the two buildings beside them. This is very strange.”
A security guard, Desmond Mazeli, pleaded with government to take over the building because it was marked two months ago by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). He said since the landlord's death, the building has been used for all sort of things, including drug trafficking.
The bodies have been deposited in a morgue.
Lagos State Fire Service Director Razak Fadipe appealed to people to desist from using candle in their homes, as it could be very dangerous.
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