No fewer than four hundred corpses were reportedly consumed by a bush fire on Saturday at the mortuary section of the General Hospital, Onitsha, Anambra State.
The sad development has left many families in tears after beholding the remains of their loved ones being burnt to ashes.
Naija News learnt that the fire emanated from a burning bush behind the morgue and escalated into the hospital facility before it received attention.
According to reports, the inferno lasted about three hours on Saturday. Mortuary attendants are said to have responded to the fire by pouring water mixed with detergent to douse the flame but could not curtail the damage.
The PUNCH Metro reports that the hospital management later called the state fire service after the fire had escalated.
Some, who had come to carry their corpses for burial, burst into tears when they saw that the mortuary was in ruins, the reports added.
“We came to take the corpse of a community member for burial only for us to see that the corpses in the morgue had been burnt beyond recognition. We are confused; we don’t know what to do,” the PUNCH quoted one of the mourners, Charles Ozor, as saying.
An eyewitness who reportedly spoke on anonymity recalled that someone had cleared the bush behind the morgue and set it on fire.
He said, “The bush is a bit far from the mortuary. But before we knew what was happening, we saw that the roof of the mortuary had caught fire. There were over 400 corpses inside the building. The entire place was engulfed in fire. Before firefighters came, the fire had caused a lot of damage; most of the corpses were burnt to ashes and some beyond recognition.
“The firefighters battled to stop the fire from escalating to other buildings. In fact, the water in their tank finished; they had to go and refill elsewhere because the hospital does not have a water facility on its premises.”
Also, an auxiliary worker, who pleaded not to be mentioned in the press told reporters that the morgue had been contracted to a private operator.
The operator of the morgue, who identified himself simply as Emma, said, “I had gone to Awka to bring some corpses. While I was there, I was informed about the fire on the phone and I rushed down immediately. Before I arrived here, the fire had done a lot of damage.
“The fire burnt both fresh and abandoned corpses packed inside the morgue. The chemicals we used in preserving the corpses must have aggravated the fire. The chemicals are highly inflammable and they burn faster than fuel.”
Confirming the incident when contacted, the Director of the Anambra State Fire Service, Mr Martin Agbili, told newsmen that firefighters battled to stop the fire from spreading to surrounding buildings.
He said, “We received a distress call from the General Hospital, Onitsha, and we deployed our men and the firefighters’ equipment to put out the fire.
“We found out that the fire came through the bush and we have been telling people to ensure that they cut the bushes around their houses and avoid bush burning because this harmattan period, fire can come from anywhere, even from a far distance, because every surface is dry and inflammable.”
He, however, confirmed that there was no loss of lives, but those who tried to put out the fire sustained varying degrees of burns.
Burnt corpses still littered the vicinity of the morgue as of the time of filing the report, Naija News understands.
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