22nd November, 2021
Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
Firefighters escaped mob action as a huge explosion at the newly commissioned Bonny- Bille-Nembe Jetty built by Rivers state government in the outskirts of Port Harcourt metropolis resulted into a heavy fire outbreak early Monday.
An eyewitness told our correspondent that at least two persons with serious cases of burn injuries were rushed to the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, RSUTH, for treatment as a result of the incident.
According to him, the environs of the Bonny- Bille-Nembe Jetty has been turned into a hotbed of illegal refining of petroleum products popularly known as “Kponfire” fuel causing massive damages across Port Harcourt and its environs.
Another eyewitness claimed that the explosion occurred when a boat driver tried to kick-start his engine.
He said this resulted in a huge fire that quickly spread to other boats aided by petroleum products in the environment.
“However, firefighters from the Federal Fire Service narrowly escaped mob action after they arrived at the scene of the fire outbreak.
The Commander of the Federal Fire Service in Rivers State, DCF Abdullahi Audu Alfa said the hoodlums accused them of them of not responding in time to the fire incident.
Alfa added that for the safety of their lives and equipment, the firefighters had to turn back.
But Alfa condemned the action of the members of the public, saying that efforts must be made to sensitize residents on how to respond to emergencies.
He also said that most times they get the information about fire outbreaks late after individual efforts failed.
The boss of Federal Fire Service said the problem of poor network of roads leading to the scenes of fire outbreaks and and poor attitude of motorists who do not give the fire fighters easy right of way at the time of emergency were also part of the causes of the delays in their arrival at the scene of incidents.
He added that the Federal Fire Service has fought 26 fire incidents (excluding today’s fire) in Port Harcourt and its environs from September to date with the loss of properties worth billions of naira.
Alfa added that his findings and experience show that most fire outbreaks in the state were caused by activities of illegal artisanal refiners and improper storage of petroleum products.
Hoodlums took advantage of the fire incident to loot, fish, crayfish and other food items from the jetty
Our correspondent reports that normalcy was restored with the arrival of the naval personnel.
The state has witnessed three major fire disasters in three days since Saturday night fire.
A fire incident close to Zenith Bank branch in Rumuokoro, Obio-Akpor local government area in Rivers on Sunday occurred less than hours after the one that happened at Isiokpo street in D-line Port Harcourt on Saturday.
All the fire outbreaks have been attributed to illegal refining petroleum products popularly called “Kponfire”.
The Commissioner for Special Duties, Emeka Onuwo said Governor Nyesom Wike has directed that a panel of inquiry be inaugurated at 3pm today to probe the fire at Isiokpo Street.
He warned that the owner of the uncompleted building where the fire occurred has been given two weeks to appear before the panel as failure to attend will lead to the confiscation of the property by the State government.
Also, the Chairman of Obio-Akpor Local Government Area, George Ariolu, that the Rumuokoro fire incident was caused by illegal trading and improper storage of petroleum products during his visit to the scene of the fire disaster.
He lamented that members of the Community Development Committee Chairman of youth leaders and other stakeholders may be aware of the illegal dangerous business without reporting to either the local government or the State Government.
“Fire incident don’t just happen, they’re caused by human activities, whether legal or illegal.
“If you go back to the point it started, you will see that this is a clear incident of illegal oil bunkering, that is what is there and that is the cause of the fire, which is condemnable.
“These are unpatriotic citizens of this nation, that is what we have discovered here”.