The death toll from the Onitsha market fire has increased to three, with witnesses saying it could be higher.
Journalists have earlier reported the death of a mother and her child from the oil tanker fire in Onitsha, Anambra State capital.
President Muhammadu Buhari has also joined other Nigerians in expressing sadness over the deaths from the incident.
“I am profoundly touched by the sight of the charred remains of an innocent mother and her child who are victims of this tragedy,” the president was quoted as saying in a statement by his spokesperson, Garba Shehu.
“I also extend my sympathies to other victims of the explosion whose houses, shops and other property were destroyed in the mishap.”
The president explained that “while I express sadness over this tragedy, I must at the same time call for urgent action on the part of those concerned to stem these frequent fatal disasters on public roads.”
According to him, “safety precautions and routine maintenance are taken for granted by vehicle owners.”
Mr Buhari called “on the Ministry of Transport, the Federal Road Safety Commission and other stakeholders to urgently address the issue of safety standards in the country, with a view to stemming the embarrassing frequency of these tragedies.”
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the tanker lost control and fell into drainage at MCC Bus stop near Toronto Hospital, Upper-Iweka, Onitsha.
As the tanker fell, it spilt its content around the area and exploded.
The fuel in the drainage flowed down with fire and burnt many houses along Iweka Road before it entered parts of Ochanja Market.
Some parts of Ochanja Market, six houses and many vehicles were razed.
It was gathered that the woman and her child lost their lives when they fell into the gutter at Ochanja First Gate while trying to escape. T
Another man at Ochanja by Zik Avenue went back to his shop to collect the money he kept there while the fire was burning. He was trapped there and died.
There were unconfirmed claims that more people might have died in the fire.
A witness who did not want to be named said that no fewer than four persons had so far died in the incident.
“I saw four lifeless bodies, while a number of persons are still trapped in a building still burning,” he said.
Some commercial banks quickly closed as the fire was spreading close to them at Ochanja Market junction.
Some residents criticised the state government for not equipping the state fire service to adequately respond to fire outbreaks.
They blamed the spread of the fire to non-provision of adequate fire service equipment that would have been used to stop the fire from spreading further.
Onitsha is the commercial nerve centre of the state and the South-east in general.
It is home to one of the largest markets in West Africa and many industries and companies.
As a result of the huge commercial activities in the city, the state government rakes in billions from taxes from the city.
But successive governments in the state have not been able to deploy these revenues to provide adequate amenities to the city’s teeming population
Roads in the city are in deplorable conditions while public utilities like water are non-existent.
The state fire service has been comatose with successive governments unable to revive it.
The city has been relying on the Delta State fire service to help it put out fires in the past.
It took over an hour for the Delta fire service to arrive at the location because of the distance and traffic on the ever-busy River Niger bridge and the Onitsha-Benin highway.