At least 20 persons, including two fire fighters of the Liberian Fire Service are reported dead, while dozen others are said to be trapped under the collapsed family home of the Fouani Brothers, gutted by fire in the commercial center, Water Side on Wednesday night.
Properties worth hundreds of thousands of dollars are said to have been damaged as a result of the incident. Firefighters from the Liberia National Fire Service, Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) and the United Nations here demolished parts of the building in an attempt to save lives and properties.
Thousands of residents rushed on the scene after the fire gutted the four-storey building, leaving hundreds others panicking in the Johanssen Community of Waterside.
Eyewitnesses told this paper that the fire started from the ground floor of the building and spread to other parts as residents and criminals from West Point Township arrived on the scene. A senior private security officer of the compound said the fire engulfed the building with no one knowing its source.
Daniel Kendema told reporters that the entire group and the Liberia National Fire Service guards, including some of his (Daniel) Lebanese bosses were all busy trying to contain the fire on the ground floor when the building suddenly collapsed, leaving over 20 persons, including two members of the Liberia National Fire Service dead, while dozen others were still trapped in the building.
The building was used multipurpose, including warehouse for packaging and refilling commodities such as powder soap and commercial oxygen plus a showroom with an inventory of brand new vehicles, furniture, electrical appliances and other valuable items estimated at several millions of United States dollars.
An eyewitness narrated: “It was about 6pm Wednesday night when we saw a very thick smoke coming from the Fuani building, and before I could realize, I also saw the Lebanese people running up and down fighting to cut the fire off.”
“In less than 10minutes, the entire place was crowded with different kinds of people, including gronna boys (criminals) from Waterside and West Point all rushed in to cut the fire off when the building collapsed on them. Some of them got killed, others got wounded and some escaped, while some are still in there.”
Meanwhile, Vice President Joseph N. Boakai has expressed grave concern for the damages sustained in the Fouani Brothers fire disaster in Monrovia. Visiting the scene on Thursday, Vice President Boakai lamented that he is downhearted by the look of damages caused by the fire.
In a very quite mood, the Liberian Vice President described the scene as “very serious disaster affecting the country’s economy.” He stressed government’s commitment to providing a stronger rescue team to clear the debris and care for survivals.
“Downhearted is an understatement right now. For such a thing to happen right here like this means a great lost to the business community. We can’t analyze the damages caused to determine the extent; our focus now is caring for the victims and making sure that lives and properties are protected under such situation,” said Veep Boakai.
He stressed a need for government to strengthen the capacity of the National Fire Service of Liberia to adequately handle such national disaster. The Vice President disclosed that government has a plan to fully empower the Fire Service, adding that Fire Service under the Ministry of Justice remains a pivotal component of the Justice System.
Also in remarks, Justice Minister Christiana Tah confirmed the death of two firefighters.
“We don’t know how many people are trapped under the debris, but we are working on the best way possible”, said the Justice Minister.