… Disburses over 100m to Ochanja fire victims
… Inspects MCC overhead bridge
YESTERDAY was a solemn and emotionally charged day in Anambra State as victims of the October 16 fires in Onitsha were hosted by the state government. Activities began in Awka-Etiti with the funeral rites of the woman and her infant child who were burnt to death in October 16 infernos in their hometown.
People from all walks of life trudged into the town for the burial of the young mother and her child who were caught up in the blaze caused by a tanker laden with petrol in Onitsha at the busy Upper Iweka flyover. The vehicle fell, spilled its content and a fire ensued.
It was carried into the gutters leading to Ochanja Market axis. There was pandemonium in the bubbling ever busy town as fire engulfed the entire area emitting collusive hash air and a sudden fire outbreak that ran through the gutters, flowing to Ochanja Market axis, causing and creating catastrophic damages and pandemonium of enormous dimension as it flows. Lives and properties were not spared. So many souls were nipped in the bud.
Life time assets of so many people engaging in one form of trade or another to make a living went into waterloo and down the drains. A state of hopelessness and helplessness became the other of the day for so many people.
Yet, as if that is not sufficient, lives were caught short. Within some interval of time of the incident, the social media came up with the most pathetic pictures and video of a young woman and a child brutally roasted by the fire.
It was the climax of the doom’s day, a pathetic sight to behold. The martyr of the entire inferno just emerged. A mother and child roasted.
The burial witnessed a mammoth attendance of high and mighty, rank and file, artisans and market men and women. The burial ceremony took place in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Awka-Etiti, headed by the Archbishop of Onitsha Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Valerian Okeke and his auxiliary, Bishop Isiuzo and over 50 priests.
The governor, flanked by all his commissioners and senior government officials were in the church also to pay their condolence.
Speaking at the event, the state governor, Chief Willie Obiano, said that no amount of money would bring back the dead, especially those who lost their lives to the recent fuel tanker fire in Onitsha.
According to Gov. Obiano, government will do its best not only to ameliorate the situation, but also prevent recurrence of similar tragedy in the future, disclosing that Anambra lost six persons to the October 16 fire incident while 10 others were hospitalised for which government footed their medical bills.
“On October 16, a grave thing happened. We had a major fire disaster that took the lives of six persons with 10 others hospitalised.
We have taken care of all the medical bills. For the six dead people, we are giving a sizeable sum, to their next of kin. But this afternoon, I will be disbursing over a N100 million to compensate victims of the inferno.
It is important to note that amongst this 763 of you, we are not discriminating against anybody. Irrespective of your state and tribe, you shall get your money, provided your goods were razed by fire,” Obiano assured.
Throwing more light on the assignment given to Deputy Governor, Dr. Nkem Okeke-led committee, Gov. Obiano said that a total of 176 businesses and shops were affected, out of which 14 houses were burnt with three adjudged unsafe and will soon be demolished.
According to the governor, ndi Anambra rose up to the occasion by doing all in their powers to minimise the disaster. He therefore prayed for God’s reward on everyone who played any role in bringing the fire accident to an end, expressing confidence that Anambra will not witness such gory incident again.
Earlier in a homily, Auxiliary Bishop of Onitsha Catholic Archdiocese, Most Rev. Dennis Isizo, reminded Christians that they are on a journey of faith to heaven, adding that death is an inevitable conclusion of life that awaits man as mortals.
The cleric also used the occasion to call on Gov. Obiano to put more scrutiny before approvals for construction of petroleum filling stations are made by the authorities.
According to Isizo, only this will bring the recent spate of petroleum tanker fires in the state to an end, even as it checkmates sabotage and touting. He therefore suggested mandatory separation of functions of fire service officers from individual shop fire prevention efforts like through the use of extinguishers.
Eulogising the governor for making out time to share the grief with their family, husband of the deceased woman, Maduka Obi, thanked government for its efforts to prevent future occurrence.
In Awka later, Gov. Willie Obiano yesterday disbursed over N100 million to victims of Ochanja tanker fire.
Speaking at the event, the governor expressed his deep sympathy to the victims and their relations, noting that no amount is big enough to assuage the pains for loss of lives and properties to the fire disaster.
According to him, what the government has done is a pat at the back, urging them to hope in God, because only Him can heal the wound better and permanently.
Gov. Obiano also announced that those who were seriously injured will receive N500, 000.00 each, outside their hospital bills which had been taken care of.
One after another, all the speakers who talked to the fire victims, urged them to endure because no amount is too small or big to compensate enough. They were encouraged to keep faith on God, as he alone, can heal permanently.
In his brief remarks, the Secretary to the Governors Committee on the Ochanja Fire Disaster and Managing Director of Anambra State Emergency Agency, Cyprian Agupugo, informed the governor that the committee carefully enumerated and virtually all the victims of the inferno and came up with a total of 663 persons that suffered various losses apart from the dead and injured.
Similarly, the Chairman of the traders, Chief Ojukwu thanked the governor for providing these helps before the Christmas season as he promised, noting that the state Ministry of Works has been on inspection of all the roads leading to the market with assurances that all roads leading to the market will be fixed soon.
High point of the event was presentation of cheques to the victims by the governor.
Gov. Obiano had earlier assured pedestrians and commuters making use of the MCC Onitsha pedestrian bridge of their safety.
He gave the assurance when he inspected the facility during an impromptu visit with some commissioners and other government functionaries at the site for an on-the-spot assessment of the project.
Calling on Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and other road traffic regulators in the state to intensify efforts at nabbing drivers who overload their vehicles bridge, the governor added that the importance he attached to the bridge underscored his choice of engaging Julius Berger for the project.
Also speaking, Anambra State Commissioner for Road Furniture, Construction and Maintenance, Marcel Ifejiofor, explained that the bridge which is about 5.5-metre high was shifted by about 30 centimetres, which necessitated its closure for public use.
He commended the contractors that did the technical job for using their crane to mount three anchors tied to a structure, because the bridge weighs about 30 tons.
It will be recalled that an overloaded articulated vehicle hit the bridge to destroy the facility by making it unsafe for use.
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