By Akinwande Soji-Ojo
No fewer than 400 corpses were burnt in a fire incident at the mortuary section of the General Hospital, in Onitsha, Anambra State.
The fire, which lasted about three hours on Saturday, razed the mortuary building located behind the hospital.
The fire was said to have emanated from a burning bush behind the morgue.
According to reports, when the fire started, mortuary attendants poured water mixed with detergent to douse the flame.
However, when the fire escalated, they called the state fire service.
Families who deposited corpses at the mortuary have been lamenting the incident, according to The Punch.
Some of the families who came to carry their corpses for burial, burst into tears when they saw that the mortuary was in ruins.
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, told the medium that someone cleared the bush behind the morgue and set it on fire.
“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,” the eyewitness said.
The morgue, it was gathered, 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.”
The Director, Anambra State Fire Service, Mr Martin Agbili, who confirmed the incident, said that firefighters battled to stop the fire from spreading to surrounding buildings.
“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 said.
Agbili, who noted that there was no loss of lives, added that those who tried to put out the fire sustained varying degrees of burns.