By Archibong Jeremiah/Jonathan Ugbal
A high tension cable belonging to Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company, PHEDC at No. 14 Adak Uko Street by Abasi Okure lane has claimed two lives and destroyed properties worth millions of naira.
The incident according to eye witness occurred between the hours of 6:30pm and 7pm, 23rd October 2017.
The Landlord of the affected property (Mr. Richard Asuquo Ikpeme) exclusively told CrossRiverWatch that, “That same wire had issues, I appealed to them and they refused to hear me, they said I should call Port Harcourt. It was on the 13th of September that I pleaded with them, I told them while they were working on the pole that that place is a death trap, I went to their boss in the car he ignored me.
“This is what has happened since they have been ignoring me, when this wire fell on the 12th of September in front of her shop (referring to the late woman). Part was on the shop and part on the ground and there was no harm the woman was inside with her baby, until we drag the wire and put down one entered the gutter that was when it sparked because there was little water in the gutter. It was when the fire stopped we used long stick to position them not to touch each other, that was how we solved that problem.”
Adding that, “The spark lasted for over 20 minutes, this NEPA people we called them instead of them to put out the light they refused. It was as a result of (half joining) sic in between the pole that caused this issue.
“I warned them, I begged them not to let it roll straight from pole to pole and they refused. The woman when she was inside the container and nothing happened to her until she ran to her house to save property she got in contact with a wire hanging. The woman’s son who ran out from his own room came in contact with the TV antenna and got electrocuted. We called Fire service they said they don’t have water.”
Another eye witness Chief Archibong Edem said, “It was unexpected, my frustration is that the Fire service didn’t show up throughout the entire episode. Nobody came from Fire department to help us put out the fire, it was boys that were able to fetch water and help us put out the fire. It is frustrating that Cross River State doesn’t have a functional fire service. That is unbelievable.
Reacting to claims by Government and PHEDC that several warnings have been issued that no one should leave under high tension wire, Chief Archibong maintained “I don’t know where Government put up any notice to say people should not leave under high tension cable, if such exist, I would like to know where it was published, besides the house wasn’t built under high tension, the high tension came and met it, would that be an excuse not to help save lives by putting off the fire?”
Also speaking, a victim Mr. Itorobong Akpan, a Pharmacist said: “This high tension, it’s the 5th time its cutting between September and now. We called NEPA severally there was no response and we called Fire service and they said their motor is not good. The woman who owns the container was electrocuted, the boy who died his mother went to drag him out and she was electrocuted too, it was about 30 minutes later that she came back and was rushed to the hospital. The Police DPO of Mbukpa went to persuade Fire service and they say the Governor has not given them money to repair their trucks, that all their cars were bad, they went to the Air Force for help with their water tankers but they said until they get clearance from Abuja they cannot release any of their vehicles, I lost about 1.3 million naira worth of drugs which were burnt.”
When contacted, the Regional Public Relation Officer of the PHEDC, Mr. John Onyi said, “We sympathize with the family of those who lost their lives and properties. Considering the fact that this is happening not quite long from when we had that of the football issue. Though we had warned that people should leave under high tension within certain distance.”
He concluded that his company will look into the issue to ensure that similar issues don’t occur again.
Our reporters who visited the scene observed that a total of nine single rooms were burnt and three shops. At the time of filing this report, all effort made to get comments from the Cross River State Fire Service proved abortive.
In will be recalled that the state PRO of the Fire Service Department has earlier said on The Dialogue With Agba Jalingo on Hit95.5FM in Calabar that the Department does not have equipment to carter for fire emergencies in the state.