October 1, 2022

A verification exercise of Belgium traders affected by an inferno that consumed valuables the previous week is in progress. 41 traders and eight households have been verified waiting for assistance either from government, non-governmental organisations and individual philanthropists.

The Response Unit of ONS (Office of National Security) is spearheading the verification exercise to know the exact number of traders affected by the wild fire.

Hopes among the traders are running high about an assistance that is underway. An ONS official who refused to mention his name told this press that local non-governmental organisations had expressed concerns about the plight of the traders.

Traders assembled yesterday afternoon on the scene of the rubble for verification.

Police and military officers were also present at the scene to keep the rowdy traders under control.

The ONS official also disclosed that the verification exercise was conducted to know the exact number of those in need of aid. He told this press that those who were not affected by the wild fire, and were not registered wanted to beat the system.

A trader in the queue, Mohamed Conteh told Nightwatch that he was one of those affected by the fire outbreak. Conteh said he was registered the previous week, and hope to benefit from either government or any NGO.

“I would be the happiest if any non-governmental organisation helps us with supplies,” he told this press.

Kamara also said he owned valuable property which were consumed by the fire, and now left with nothing. He cannot quantify in monetary terms what he has lost to the fire.

An old woman who forced her way into the queue was not allowed by the security operatives. Major Prince Sesay who went along with the ONS officials did not permit her to be in the queue noting that the lady was not previously registered.

In a brief interview, the lady who also refused to show her name told this press that she resided in the house that was consumed by the fire outbreak.

She also mentioned that some of her property was burned down by the fire, and that she deserved the aid. The inferno which broke out at Belgium the previous week appears to be the most dangerous in decades.

No one tells the true cause of the fire, but accusing fingers continue to point at the violence that erupted at the SLPP (Sierra Leone People’s Party) headquaters on Wallace Johnson Street in Freetown.

Some residents in the community have accused the SLPP boys to have planned and implemented the burning of the traders shops and stalls. The violence came after the youths who have turned SLPP office into a dwelling house were asked to leave.

It has been widely reported that the violence that broke out at the party office spilled over to the Belgium community.

However, no one has claimed responsibility in respect of the fire incident. Chairman of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party, Dr Prince Harding has put up a strong defence.

Mr Harding said the arsonists were not members of SLPP.

They were violent gangs who wait for every opportunity to cause mayhem.

But, police said several youths had been arrested in respect of the inferno thus creating a sigh of relief for the affected traders.

But, the traders lost confidence when a statement from police high command demanded papers from the affected traders to establish the legality of their stay on Belgium community.

In a widely circulated video, the Inspector-General of Police had expressed suspicion of the sale of stolen properties in shops established at Belgium. Fire incidents have become a constant source of worry for residents in Freetown owing to their destructive nature.

A fire incident that recently broke out on Wilkinson Road in Freetown led to the destruction of the school for the blind.

The fire consumed two huge buildings leaving several people homeless. The outgoing headmaster at that time told this press about the cause of the fire.

From his account, it was clear that the fire was caused by neglect of electrical appliances.

In the night, he said, children were watching film when the light suddenly went off.

The children, tired and dizzy, went to bed without putting of either the television or the switch to which the extension was attached.

While they were asleep, light came back with a heavy speed that the television could not contain, and fire broke out.

As usual, several non-governmental organisations also expressed concern to aid the affected residents. Fire incidents are also not uncommon in the provinces.

Residents upcountry have also seen fire outbreaks that have consumed property running into hundreds of millions of Leones.

The story about the cause of fire in PortLoko is also not too far from other fires that have broken out in recent past.

Investigation mounted by this press indicates that the fire in PortLoko was caused by a fire left in locally made cooking stove.

A lady who failed to completely put off the fire after cooking was blamed. Financial assistance was provided for those affected by the fire in Portloko by Vice President, Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh.

The sum of Le10, 000, 000 (Ten Million Leones) was given to each trader affected by the fire. They were also promised of a new building to be constructed soon. Fire incidents have caused waves of destruction in several communities in Freetown and the provinces.

Most times, the congested nature in which houses were built fanned the flames of the fires. It also made it difficult for the fire service, the National Fire Force officers to extinguish the fires when they occur. Building projects in Freetown and the provinces remain largely unregulated.

Residents could erect houses without recourse to either local or central government authorities for appropriate housing style. Several public education campaigns have been held on radio and television by personnel of the Fire Force agency. A fire service personnel who put the statistics of fire incidents at over a 1,000   recently predicted that there would likely be more fires this year.

She also attributed the cause to the culture of neglect which has become endemic among Sierra Leoneans. She further explained that most residents in Freetown and in the provinces have constructed their houses for lengthy years without checking on the old cables.

From her analysis, the problem of old cables remains one of the principal causes of fire in communities in Freetown and in the provinces.

Most times, government, non-governmental organisations and philanthropists would respond with aid to alleviate plight of victims.

But, the aid would not take care of all what is lost thus making a strong case for fire incidents to be prevented.

PortLoko and other communities affected by fires have benefitted, Belgium traders wait to see theirs after verification.