Goods and property worth millions of naira were destroyed following a fire incident that ravaged the Okujagu slaughter market in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital.
Among the property affected in the inferno were at least ten makeshift houses in the area.
It was gathered that the fire was caused by suspected urchins in the area who were smoking substances and were careless with the leftovers.
But as the fire started, they joined in trying to put it out with other residents, while many others ran into homes to salvage their belongings.
Meanwhile, one of the firefighters from the Federal Fire Service who arrived at the scene with his colleagues following a distress call was beaten to pulp by anxious youths who were angry that the firemen did not turn up in time to put out the fire.
The Commander of the Federal Fire Service in Rivers State, Abdullahi Alfa Audu, who confirmed the attack to newsmen, said the youths were angry that his men did not arrive early to put out the fire.
He said, “You know the fire call and we turn up as usual to fight it. On getting there, we already position our vehicle to start fighting the fire. All these hoodlums started stoning them and beating them.
“They (firefighters) now jumped into their vehicle to move. In the process of moving, one of the firemen fell. As he fell down, they (hoodlums) held him and started beating him with machetes.
“He had a deep cut on his hand. We had to rush him to the hospital. That was when they stitched the hand and gave him some pints of blood.”
Audu said not knowing the cause of the fire was dangerous because the actions of the suspected hoodlums prevented them from putting out the fire and taking inventory of the incident.
“What we are doing is to complement the efforts of the state firemen. But because we are not allowed to do our work, there is no way we can stay back and ascertain the level of damage in the fire.
“Life first. You have to save your life first. We were not the ones that caused the fire. We were only going there to help. So these boys that saw that we came late, they were not the ones that called us.
“They don’t even know what we encountered before we got to the fire scene, and they are mobbing, trying to vandalise their vehicles and injuring firemen,” he fumed.
When contacted, spokesperson of the state police command, Grace Iringe-Koko said she would find out from the nearest police station and get back to our correspondent.
Iringe-Koko, a Superintendent of Police, had yet to give our reporter a feedback as of the time of filing this report.