Property worth millions of naira have been gutted by fire at the popular Ochanja Market in Onitsha, the commercial city of Anambra.
The incident followed a road accident involving an articulated vehicle carrying Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) popularly known as petrol, which lost control and fell into the major drainage at MCC Junction near Toronto hospital at the Upper Iweka axis of the Enugu Onitsha expressway.
The content of the tanker spilled through the drainage and later went into flames, which extended to Ochanja Market and razed some shops and residential buildings.
A yet to he identified woman and her baby were caught up by the fire and burnt to death.
There were also reports of other casualties, which figure could not be ascertained at the time of this report.
However, the situation caused serious panic in the area as commuters and residents scampered for safety due to the raging fire, which became almost uncontrollable.
An eye witness told Radio Nigeria that the tanker of the articulated vehicle pulled off from the head and plunged into the gutter before catching fire.
Efforts by the personnel of the Anambra State fire service to put out the fire were fruitless as the only vehicle, which gained access to the market ran short of water.
Radio Nigeria gathered that some angry mob prevented other fire trucks, including one from neighbouring Asaba in Delta State, from getting to the scene.
The aggrieved mob who almost lynched the fire fighters from Asaba, claimed that the fire service team arrived late at the scene.
As at 6:00pm, the fire was still raging while residents and traders, whose property were affected were seen trying to quench the inferno with sachets and buckets of water to no avail.
The Commissioner of Police in Anambra State, Mr. John Abang, who later visited the scene of the incident for on the spot assessment, appealed to residents to remain calm as efforts were on to control the incident.
Consequently, police patrol team cordoned off the area to prevent hoodlums from taking advantage of the situation to loot shops and other affected buildings.
The Police Public Relations officer in the state, Mr. Haruna Mohammed, said the case was under investigation to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the fire incident.
Meanwhile, the state Governor, Chief Willie Obiano has sympathized with victims of the fire incident.
In a statement by the Commissioner of Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr. C-Don Adinuba, the Governor directed owners of property affected by the tragic accident, including shop owners, to report at the Conference Room of the Secretary to the State Government on Monday, October 21, 2019, to see how the State Government could assist them.
He said a panel would be set up immediately to determine the cause of the accident, why the firemen could not put out the fire and how the condition of the victims could be ameliorated.
The Governor prayed for the repose of the souls of the woman and child who died in the accident.
In the meantime, the extent of damage caused by fire incident has not been ascertained.
UCHE NDEKE & ENUMA ONYECHI