Fire ripped through Jankara market in Lagos Island, Nigeria’s largest city Wednesday morning and wounded at least 30 people after a huge explosion rocked a building believed to be storing fireworks, officials said.
The blast and fire led to panic in the densely packed area of Lagos, a city of some 15 million people, with residents jumping from windows to flee and others salvaging goods from their shops in the market’s neighbourhood.
Fireworks continued to explode well after the fire began while smoke was heavy and the blaze intense, making it difficult for rescue workers and firefighters to approach the scene.
Some reports said the fire broke out when a small boy ignited a firecracker popularly known as ‘knockout,’ which hit some of the stocks of unsold fireworks in the building.
Within minutes of the explosion, the fire spread to a nearby building, sending hundreds of residents, traders and shoppers fleeing in the usually boisterous market area.
No fewer than eight multi-storey buildings and 10 cars were consumed as the raging fire spread, aided by the dry harmattan wind.
Huge crowds gathered in the area, including onlookers and those seeking to help, according to news agency reports.
Residents rushed to help firefighters as they neared the fire, bringing containers of water and helping carry hoses, but the volatile situation made it difficult.
“We have treated up to 30 people so far,” Red Cross worker Nicolas Adesile told AFP at the scene, adding there had not been any reports of deaths.
One man treated for a cut on his leg said he jumped from his building to escape.
“I had to jump from the first floor to save my life,” he said.
Officials were seeking to confirm further details on the incident, with the force of the explosion so strong that rumours even spread over whether there had been a plane crash.
The National Emergency Management Agency said fire was believed to have caused the explosion at a shop storing fireworks. The shop was severely damaged and crumbling.
“NEMA has mobilised response agencies and volunteers to an explosion in a building suspected to be loaded with (fireworks) in the Jankara area of Lagos,” agency spokesman Yushau Shuaib said in a statement.
“Search and rescue officers of NEMA (are) having hectic time to reach the place due to traffic and crowds,” he said.
Jankara, home to a large market, is located in the Lagos Island area, among the oldest and most densely packed neighbourhoods in the city.
Fireworks are popular in Nigeria during the Christmas and New Year holidays.