Today the 4th day of November 2013 started like the beginning of any other week until calamity struck, and fire gutted 22-storey Great Nigeria House in Lagos.
Hundreds of tenants and traders wept as the fire engulfed the Great Nigeria House along Martins Street on Lagos Island, western Nigeria, which served as their offices and warehouses.
The fire paralysedf commercial activities in the Balogun area of Lagos Island.
Many of the traders were seen scrambling to salvage few of their goods from the burning building.
The 22-storey Great Nigeria House, acclaimed as the fifth tallest building in Nigeria, accommodates Mainstreet Bank and also serves as warehouses to some traders.
A witness said the fire started at about 5 a.m. and was first noticed on the first floor.
He disclosed that as at 10.30 a.m., the fire had taken over the first four floors.
Fire service officials, men of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, police, health officials and others were at the scene battling to put it out.
As at 11 a.m., the firemen were able to contain the fire and also prevented it from spreading to other floors and shopping plazas around the skyscraper.
Director, Lagos State Fire Service, Rasak Fadipe, told news men that the fire service received a distress call around 6.34 a.m. that the building was on fire.
He disclosed that the fire trunks at Onikan Fire Station, with 10,000 litres of water were mobilized to the scene. On getting there, his men discovered that the fire was of great magnitude and that there was no way the 10,000 litres of water could quell the fire.
“We had to call for reinforcement from the Sari-Iganmu Fire Station which brought another 10,000 litres of water to fight the fire,” he said.
Fadipe added that the fire men also brought aerial ladders used in fighting fire in highrise buildings to the scene to gain access to the affected floors.
He identified crowd control as one of the challenges his men faced when they arrived the scene, adding that some social miscreants also called ‘area boys’ tried to snatch the fire equipment from his men.
He said his men had to tackle the crowd before they could gain access to the building and that the policemen on ground helped in cordoning off the area.
According to him, the thick smoke billowing from the building also posed a challenge to his men but that they had to use a breathing aparatus to gain entrance into the building.
He said the cause of the fire could not be ascertained.
Fadipe also confirmed that the Federal Fire Service and that of the United Bank for Africa, UBA, complemented the effort of the state firemen.
Spokesperson, National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA ,said the fire was still raging as at the time of filing this report.