Liberia: Fire Ravages Several Properties in Monrovia and C.H. Rennie Govt. Hospital in Kakata
MONROVIA – Two major fire incidents over the weekend in Monrovia and Kakata, Margibi County left scores of people devasted, several properties including the only referral hospital in Margibi County destroyed.
By J.H. Webster Clayeh in Monrovia and Yawah Y. Jaivey in Margibi County
The Monrovia Incident
A truck belonging to Aminata carrying fuel last Friday caught fire at the exhaust of the truck.
According to reports, after the truck caught fire, the driver lost control of it and after futilely struggling to bring it to a complete stop, he jumped out of it and fled.
The uncontrolled truck fell off at the intersection of Buchanan and Front Streets and went down the ditch to Water Street – falling on houses and stores, burst into wild flames with thick black smoke leaving eight persons seriously injured and several stores and homes destroyed.
Marketers and pedestrians abandoned their goods and fled for their lives.
The fire spread as far as Water Street, a commercial hub in central Monrovia.
Assuta Wreh and other family members including a two-year-old baby managed to exit the building through one of the windows at the back of the house, Darling Suomie, an eyewitness explained to FrontPageAfrica.
Suomie, an eyewitness and one of the victims said, “Madam Wreh, including some of the family members, was taken to one of the clinics in the South Beach Community immediately after they exited their building.”
Suomie expressed sadness over the incident, adding that it has not been the first for such an accident to occur at that particular area.
Suomie said, “It’s not the first time it has happened. The other time, the truck fell and it bounced on that other house and all the tires turned around and the driver survived and he woke up and said let me see the place where I dropped.”
According to Suomie, as victims, they are left with nothing. She said, everything they ever worked for over the years were destroyed by the fire and looted by criminals who rushed on the scene.
“The fire crossed and spread all over our neighborhood. We just thank God that it was not gasoline, by now, that would have been different thing we were going to talk about here,” she said.
Quiqui Gbitolu, a father of two and owner of one of the houses that were badly damaged by the tanker said he was glad that he took his two children for vacation in Lofa County.
He was not home when the incident occurred, but later rushed to the scene upon hearing the news of the fire disaster at his home.
Gbitolu said, “Only God made it my children were not in the house. I took them for vacation. After hearing the news, before I could come to my house, I met people inside taking my belongings.”
Also, James Nyelekei, father of four, is another victim of the incident. Nyelekie said, “My children were not home and so, none of us got injured but my house got damaged and looted. We were unable to take anything from the house.”
The Spokesman the Liberia National Police, Moses Carter, told FrontPageAfrica over the weekend that investigation has been concluded. He, however, said four houses and three warehouses got badly burned.
Mr. Carter said, preliminary investigation established that there was no human casualty.
“We did not have a report of any person getting injured except for the driver who was driving the Aminata tanker and since then he has not been seen,” Carter said.
He added: “Our officers are conducting said investigation from the public safety perspective and by Monday they will definitely reach out to Aminata.”
“When the incident started, some people came around and started looting but our officers rushed on the scene and they are there currently to prevent anyone from intruding on people’s property,” Carter said.
The management of the petroleum company on Sunday expressed regrets over the accident.
“We sincerely regret the incident and would like to assure the General Public that the insurance covering the truck was informed in time about the accident and is actively working with the Liberia National Police and the matter is being handled,” Aminata & Sons stated.
“We will continue to engage all parties (the insurance company, the police, the owner of the truck and the victims) to bring an amicable solution and we will continue to keep the public informed.
“Meanwhile, we like to thank the government of Liberia through the Fire Service Agency for its timely response, the Liberia National Police, the Monrovia City Corporation and all relevant actors who were involved in responding to the incident and protecting the lives and properties of people involved.”
C. H. Rennie Hospital Ravaged
On Sunday, fire broke out on and destroyed the only Government-run hospital in Kakata, Margibi County.
The fire started shortly after 8am. on Sunday, August 15, in the building that housed the hospital’s operating theater, emergency room, inpatient pharmacy, finance office and records section, along with other administrative and other support functions for the hospital.
The building got completely destroyed, but the flames were confined to that one structure by the aid of youth who used sand and gravels to contain blazing fire from spilling over to other structures.
Health authorities in the county told FrontPageAfrica that the fire incident began from the operating theater due to electrical shoct and quickly intensified to other parts of the building due to the explosion of oxygen canisters.
“It’s an unfortunate situation for us for the county and our health system for the only referral hospital to be ablaze with fire; it’s something that has broken me down and any other Margibians,” said Dr. Augustine Fannieh, Margibi County Health Officer.
This hospital also caters not just to the people of Margibi, but from people from surrounding counties including lower Bong, Grand Bassa and Montserrado Counties.
Dr. Fannieh lamented that the damage done by the fire is huge, stating that he was grateful that there was no loss of life.
He said patients on the hospital wards at the onset of the fire outbreak were moved and transferred to the nearby health facilities as a precautionary measure while the fire was being contained.
At the same time, members of the Margibi County Legislative Caucus and the Health Minister, Dr. Wilhemina Jallah, hastily arrived on the scene to ascertain facts surrounding fire outbreak.
Briefing the press following the conduct of a short closed-door meeting with Minister Jallah, Rep. Tibelrosa S. Tarponweh, Chairman of the Margibi County Legislative Caucus, revealed that the Government of Liberia through the Executive has decided to temporarily shut down the hospital facilities while they find means of reconstructing the hospital.
Rep. Tarponweh: “The infrastructure team from the government will soon be here to assess the level of damage caused by the fire and then we can discuss on the reconstruction process.”
“The disaster situation is saddening and terrifying, especially with the one involving the only government referral hospital in the county. This particular situation is peculiar,” Margibi District four Rep. Ben Fofana asserted.
For her part, Rep. Ellen Attoh-Wreh, Margibi District 3 Representative, announced that the hospital will be temporally closed to the public for the period of one week to allow assessment to carry out. She noted that the Margibi County Legislative Caucus decision was in consultation with the Ministry of Health.
Meanwhile, residents reported went on the rampage and attacked a Firestone-Liberia fire service truck that had gone to contain the fire with stones, resulting to the smashing of the vehicle’s windshield. The enraged citizens were reportedly agitating over the delay in responding to the fire incident.