Ottawa Citizen

Fire­works ware­house blast rat­tles Nigeria’s largest city

Lo­cals help as trucks run out of water

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LA­GOS, Nigeria • A mas­sive ex­plo­sion ripped through a ware­house full of fire­works in Nigeria’s largest city on Wed­nes­day, spark­ing a fire that threat­ened sur­round­ing city blocks and send­ing a plume of thick smoke high into the sky.

The blast hap­pened around 9 a.m. in the Jankara area of La­gos Is­land, a neigh­bour­hood of nar­row streets and tall ce­ment build­ings hold­ing shops and hous­ing peo­ple some­times a dozen to a room in the megac­ity of La­gos. The force of the ex­plo­sion echoed miles away and shook win­dows.

It was not im­me­di­ately clear if any­one was in­side of the build­ing at the time of the ex­plo­sion. An As­so­ci­ated Press jour­nal­ist saw mem­bers of the Nige­rian Red Cross treat­ing peo­ple with mi­nor cuts and bruises a few blocks from the site. Dr. Femi OkeOsany­in­tolu, La­gos state’s emer­gency man­ager, said he wasn’t im­me­di­ately aware of any ca­su­al­ties.

Rub­ble-strewn streets sur­round­ing the burn­ing build­ing were cov­ered in the spent shells of fire­works. Sev­eral po­lice of­fi­cers and se­cu­rity of­fi­cials found large, mor­tar­like fire­works in the build­ing, the kind wired to ex­plode as part of a large ar­range­ment put on by pro­fes­sion­als.

Nige­ri­ans com­monly shoot off fire­works and fire­crack­ers to mark Christ­mas and the New Year, with hawk­ers roam­ing in traf­fic with fist­fuls of the small ex­plo­sives to sell to pass­ing drivers. Lo­cal government of­fi­cials have tried to ban fire­works this year, in part due to safety and in part due to the fear they can cause in a na­tion where a rad­i­cal Is­lamist sect is car­ry­ing out shoot­ings and car bomb­ings. Nev­er­the­less fire­works have ex­ploded across the coun­try in re­cent days to mark the hol­i­day sea­son.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter the blast Wed­nes­day, thou­sands quickly filled the streets sur­round­ing the still-burn­ing build­ings. A half-dozen fire­fight­ers ar­rived at the scene with two trucks and lo­cals also ran fire hoses from the trucks to nearby build­ings to try to beat back the flames.

The trucks quickly ran out of water. One man even scooped up water from a pud­dle with a bowl in an at­tempt to fight the blaze. One fire­fighter briefly fought with a young man who took his fire­fight­ing hel­met off his head and ran away into the swarm­ing crowd.

 ?? SUN­DAY ALAMBA/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS ?? A man tries to con­tain a fire at a ware­house full of fire­works on La­gos Is­land in La­gos, Nigeria, on Wed­nes­day. The blaze threat­ened the densely pop­u­lated sur­round­ing city blocks, photo be­low. There was no word on pos­si­ble ca­su­al­ties.
SUN­DAY ALAMBA/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS A man tries to con­tain a fire at a ware­house full of fire­works on La­gos Is­land in La­gos, Nigeria, on Wed­nes­day. The blaze threat­ened the densely pop­u­lated sur­round­ing city blocks, photo be­low. There was no word on pos­si­ble ca­su­al­ties.
 ?? JON GAM­BRELL/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS ??
JON GAM­BRELL/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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