400 corpses in mortuary lost in Anambra fire disaster

A burning bush on Saturday, January 22, 2022, consumed over 400 corpses in a fire incident at the mortuary section of the General Hospital, Onitsha, Anambra State.


A food market near the Federal Polytechnic, Oko in Orumba North Local Government Area of the state was also razed by fire.


The fire, which was said to have emanated from a burning bush behind the morgue lasted about three hours and razed the mortuary building located behind the hospital facility.


All corpses at the morgue were burnt beyond recognition while items worth millions were destroyed in the market.

400 corpses in mortuary lost in Anambra fire disaster
400 corpses in mortuary lost in Anambra fire disaster

The mortuary attendants were said to have called the state fire service after attempt to douse the flame with water mixed with detergent failed.

Some families who had come to carry their corpses for burial, burst into tears when they saw that the mortuary was in ruins and burnt corpses littering the vicinity.

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One of them, Charles Ozor, said, “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.”


An eyewitness, who did not want to be identified, 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.

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“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.”


An auxiliary worker, who did not mention her name, told PUNCH Metro that the morgue had been contracted to a private operator.


An eyewitness said the police, who arrived the scene shortly after the incident, quickly barricaded the area to prevent people from looting the shops.

Confirming the hospital incident, Director, State Fire Service, Engr. Martin Agbili, said the fire which occurred around 12.34pm was caused by bush burning.


“Yesterday, 22-01-2022 by 1243hours, fire gutted the Onitsha General Hospital Mortuary as a result of bush burning from a nearby hospital’s quarter. All the deposited corpses were burnt beyond recognition,” he said.


Police spokesman, Ikenga Tochukwu, who confirmed the market fire incident, said the Commissioner of Police, Echeng Echeng had ordered for comprehensive investigation into the incident.


He said: “The Commissioner of Police, Echeng Echeng is worried by recent fire incidents in market at Oko and food vendor/furniture workshop near state secretariat junction by Ifite road which resulted to loss of valuable properties.


“Preliminary Information reveals that the fire took place in the early hours of the morning period and no life was lost.


“The Police Operatives quickly responded, cordoned off the area to avert hoodlums from taking advantage of the situation to loot and contacted the Fire service department.


“The fire was successfully put off and the cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained.


“The CP advised members of the public to always take precautionary measures to avert such ugly incidents and avoid storing highly combustible materials in their homes, offices or business premises as these are capable of causing a raging inferno.

“He admonished citizens of negligent acts such as unbriddled dropping of cigarette butts, uncontrolled bush burning, use of fire crackers and other explosive, careless handling of receptacles for trash, poor handling of electrical appliances and other human actions or inactions capable of causing fire outbreak.


“The CP enjoined parents and guardians to keep tabs on their children and keep inflammable substances away from the reach of children.


“Also in the event of an unavoidable fire outbreak, members of the public are advised to use fire extinguishers, and promptly call Fire Service Station/office, the police and other disaster management outlets nearest to them for necessary assistance.”

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