Women and children were said to have been burnt to death when a major fire outbreak erupted at a popular jetty at the Creek Road area of Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital on Monday.
This is coming less than 24 hours after multiple fire incidents broke out in locations in the heart of the Rivers State capital.
The Daily Vendor Newspaper learnt that unidentified number of people including children, women were killed in the inferno which occurred at about 10a.m. on Monday at the ever busy Nembe/ Bille/Bonny Jetty.
It was also gathered that about seven dugout boats and other items worth millions of naira were burnt.
Witnesses at the jetty alleged that a man suspected to be a loader on one of the boats was seen smoking cigarette which ignited the fire.
One of the witnesses, who didn’t want his name mentioned, said that all the affected boats were laden with inflammable substances like fuel and diesel which quickened the spread of the fire from the waterfront to the upland burning anything on sight.
He went on to say that “one woman watched helplessly as her four children were trapped in one of the ill-fated boats while another woman with her three children were burnt by the fire.
“The fire started at exactly 10a.m. Some of those boats came from Bayelsa and Bille. Loaders were busy offloading goods from the boats and one of them was smoking cigarette. It was the cigarette that actually ignited the fire.
“About seven boats are involved in the accident. I can’t give you the exact figure of the casualties because, as you can see, all the affected boats have burnt to ashes”, he narrated.
Another witness however revealed that a number of victims were rushed to an undisclosed hospital for urgent medical attention.
Speaking, the chairman of the flying boat, Nembe Waterfront, Mr. David Teke, warned that on no account should any worker or boat driver be allowed to smoke or drink at the jetty.
“My unit is different from where the fire occurred this morning. I have warned those working under me not to smoke or drink when on duty. That is the law here. As a safety precaution, we have enough fire extinguishers and buckets of sand to forestall this sort of occurrence,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State government has threatened to confiscate any property in the state used for illegal oil bunkering activities and to also prosecute their owners accordingly.
The state Commissioner for Special Duties, Hon. Emeka Onowu, made the threat on Monday during an on-the-spot assessment of the damages caused by the Saturday night fire outbreak at Isiokpo Street, D-Line as well as that of a similar incident on Sunday morning at Rumuokoro community in Obio/Akpor LGA of the state.
The commissioner while briefing newsmen said “preliminary observation revealed a secret petroleum products tanks seen at both properties, suggested illegal bunkering operations”, he said.
Onowu, however, accused community leaders and security agencies of sabotage for their failure to report bunkering activities as well as arresting the perpetrators.