Port Harcourt - The popular Mile 1 market in Port Harcourt, Rivers, was gutted by an early morning fire that destroyed properties and goods worth millions of naira.
Eyewitnesses told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the fire started at about 2.00 am on Tuesday and razed the entire make-shift market.
The fire also affected a two storey residential building housing some lock-up stores.
One of the traders, Chimdi Eze, said he lost jewelries worth more than N2 million to the fire.
Eze said that the painful aspect was that he just received stock worth N600 000 for the Christmas sales.
''I just lost everything to the fire,'' he said.
Another trader, Chinecherem Ndubuisi, said he lost electronics worth more than N3 million, adding that starting afresh would be very difficult for him since he did not have enough capital.
Ebere Okoye, a trader and resident of the burnt residential building, who could not control his tears, said her entire life savings and properties had been consumed by the inferno
Ebere, a widow and mother of four, said she did not know how she could provide accommodation for and feed her children.
“Ever since I lost my husband, life has been difficult and will even be harder now that I have lost everything.
“Government and well-meaning Nigerians should come to my aid because as it stands now, the only thing keeping me alive is my children,” she said amidst outburst.
Some others traders told NAN that they did not only lose their goods to the inferno, they also lost cash worth several thousands of naira which they left in the market.
They said they normally left the proceeds from their last sales in the shops due to the closure of banks.
Christopher Uwajeh, an eye-witness, who praised the resilience of the firemen, said the Police and men of the State Security Service were at the scene to curtail breakdown of law and order.
Uwajeh expressed regrets that economic activities would be affected as other traders in the state might exploit the situation to hike price of their goods for more profits due to ''the law of demand and supply”.
NAN reports that the state fire service and that of the Nigerian Ports Authority put out the fire and prevented it from spreading to adjoining streets and offices.
The office of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and that of the Federated Correspondents Chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) are two blocks away from the inferno.
The state Commissioner for Special Duties, Dickson Omunnakwe, said that the fire took everybody by surprise since his ministry organised fire safety training for the traders last week.
Omunnakwe commended the management of the NPA for responding to the distress call made by the government.
He advised the traders to avoid stocking inflammable items in the market, but said that the cause of the fire was still unknown.
The Chairman of the Mile 1 Market Traders Association, Keneth Eze, said that the traders lost goods worth millions of naira to the fire.
Eze said that they had lost all they had to the fire and appealed to the state government and public spirited individuals to assist them get back to business.