Property worth millions of naira were on Saturday night gutted by fire at Santana Market, Benin-Sapele Road, Benin city.
The fire caught many by surprise as it was raining hard in Benin, while the surroundings of the market were flooded.
Eyewitnesses said the fire started around 9pm when the traders had closed their stalls and retired home.
The inferno raged till daybreak and reduced everything in the affected fifty stalls to rubble.
It was gathered that firefighters from the NNPC responded to the emergency calls but became helpless after exhausting their water.
Eyewitnesses said the fire outbreak might not be unconnected with voltage surge resulting in explosion in one of the stalls.
On Sunday, a huge number of sympathisers gathered at the market as victims counted their losses. A woman was seen rolling on the ground as people gathered around to console her.
One of the victims, Mrs Cecilia Awala, who said she had been in the market for 20 years, said she had never experienced such incident in the market.
“I was told the fire started around 9pm after we had closed from the market. Then I received a call that the market was on fire and before I got here, everything was gone, including my child’s store.
“All his goods and the money he left in the store, everything is gone. My fish, everything I have in my shop is gone. As I stand here, I have nothing at home to eat; I mean nothing at all,” she said.
Awala said she didn’t know the cause of the fire but noticed that there was no power supply before she left the market.
She stated, “We understand that power was restored later in the night, so we are suspecting that the fire might have been caused by power surge.”
Another trader in the market, Ese Peter, said she couldn’t retrieve even a pin from her two stores in the market.
The state Commissioner of Police, Mr DanMallam Mohammed, who confirmed the incident, described it as unfortunate.
“I had to deploy my men there to prevent the looting of the place. It is sad that this is coming almost side by side with Onitsha market fire,” he said.
Chairman of Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area, Dr Eric Osayande, was on the ground to assess the extent of damage.
Osayande assured the victims that government would investigate the incident which he said was the first time since the history of the market with a view to preventing a recurrence.
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