Death toll rises after Ebonyi New Year fire incident

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AT least, four more victims of the fire incident which occurred on the New Year Day in Akaeze, the Ivo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State have died.

There were conflicting figures on Saturday evening on the total number of deaths so far recorded.

While a government official said four of the victims admitted in the hospital have died, a source in the community disagreed insisting that the casualty figure is higher than that.

The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said at least six persons have died while the remaining are in critical condition.

The source added that one of those who died is a lady whose wedding was coming up in a few days time.

But the Coordinator of Akaeze Development Centre,  Simbad Ogbuatu, said he was only aware of four more additional deaths.

“Yes, I heard that four of those rushed to the hospital have died”, he said.

The fire outbreak, which occurred in the Iyioji community in Akaeze in the Ivo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State on the New Year Day left a three-year old baby dead, with many others sustaining various degrees of burns.

The fire incident, which occurred around 8:am on Friday, January 1, 2021, at the home of one Mr. Ogenyi Chukwu, was allegedly caused when a canon loaded with gun powder and left in the house had contact with fire.

Chukwu, who narrated the incident to newsmen, said their children and 11 other relatives were watching television in the house when suddenly fire engulfed the entire house leading to a pandemonium.

“The fire incident was triggered when a locally made gun powder metal known as ‘nkpolali’ placed close to the room where the children were watching television suddenly sparked off fire.

“The fire, before been noticed, has already taken over the entire room and the doors and windows of the room were locked.

“I kept the item in my house hoping to use it to celebrate the ‘New Year’ having survived the COVID-19 pandemic and the ENDSARS protest,” Chukwu said.

Chukwu, father of some of the fire victims, said that their joy in 2020 was short-lived due to outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic which brought about an economic and social lockdown.

He said one of the victims who was three years old died on the spot during the rescue operation, while two others who sustained first-degree burns were immediately admitted at St. Denis Hospital, Ogidi Akaeze.

He added that eight other victims were quickly rushed to the Alex Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki.

Spokesman of the Police in the state, Loveth Odah, could not be reached for comment at the time of this report.

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