A section of the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri, Imo State, was yesterday razed by fire, forcing passengers to flee for safety.The cause of the inferno, which lasted for over 30 minutes, was not immediately ascertained, but The Guardian learnt that the fire started around 2:00 p.m. at the arrival section of the airport, which was under renovation.
Though no life was lost, it took spirited efforts by men of the fire service and airport workers to put out the blaze.
The General Manager Corporate Affairs of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Henrietta Yakubu, said the fire was “curtailed swiftly” by officers of the Aerodrome Rescue and Fire Fighting Services Department of FAAN, aiding the restart of normal operations at the airport. Yakubu said the authority had commenced preliminary investigations into the cause of the incident.
Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha told reporters: “I have just heard that the Imo Airport is on fire. I don’t know the cause. I am going there now.”Meanwhile, when contacted, the police spokesperson in the state, Orlando Ikeokwu, said he was yet to be properly briefed on the incident.
Efforts to get the management of the airport to speak on the incident did not yield result. One of the senior members of staff, who spoke on condition of anonymity, however said the authority would issue an official statement soon.He expressed regret over the outbreak. He assured that effort was already in place to ascertain the remote cause and forestall future occurrence.
A travel agent, Kenneth, said: “I was at the car park when it all started, with people running away from the scene. It was, first, the smoke coming out and then fire. It all happened so quickly. The fire was quite serious. It was beyond what the workers could handle. So, people had to watch helplessly until the firefighters came, almost an hour after it started.”
Also, a shop owner at the airport, Miss Chinyere Eche, told The Guardian there was an ongoing renovation at the arrival section, which was razed. “Nobody could say the immediate cause of the fire, though some said it could be a problem with electrical connection. There was damage but it could have been much but for the speedy intervention of the men of the fire service and other individuals.”