A fatal fire disaster that took place during the evening of Saturday, February 17, 2019, has left several persons homeless and two deaths reported.
Eight large zinc-shack homes were razed to ashes in the Kissi Camp community in the Borough of New Kru Town, leaving a dozen families without shelter.
Fire gutted and completely shattered the clustered houses at about 11:00 p.m. on Friday, stunning occupants and other residents of the area by the speed of its spread.
Eyewitnesses said the fire was caused by electrical shock that originated from a room in one of the affected homes. This was confirmed by 74 year-old Kissi Camp chairman Joseph Tamba.
There has been no report of casualty so far, but bystanders told the Liberia News Agency that two “unconscious” children were whisked off from a burning house to nearby Redemption Hospital for treatment.
Tamba, whose six-bedroom house was also entirely gutted, admitted that power theft has been on the rise in the community.
“The fire started from the other side over there, but what I know is that, the fire came from electricity problem in somebody’s room. Houses burned in this community before and that’s why we passed a big law that no one should use candle in their house. That law has been working so I don’t think it was candle that caused the fire,” Tamba said
Asked whether the community had a law against power theft, chairman Tamba said: “As for stealing current, I will not lie to you; we have no law for that. For this side of the community, we have no LEC (Liberia Electricity Corporation) transmitter, so people would just steal current from one house to the other.”
The community leader further confessed he benefited from such electricity generation, saying that, “It (illegal power) was also in my house”.
The Kissi Camp, like many slums and other environs of Monrovia, as indicated by locals, is pre-disposed to power theft, something the government has been struggling to end.
Also speaking to LINA was youthful Mary James. Like other affected occupants, Mary lost to the fire her valuables and a sum of L$15,000 she had withdrawn from the bank earlier in the day.
Narrating her ordeal, she said: “I was really confused when the fire started because this is my first time to experience this kind of thing. I saved my little brother who was sleeping, and a woman in the other house as the fire approached our side. We really need help.”
About the kids said to be ‘unconscious’, Mary further lamented that: “We are not hearing good news about them. From what we are hearing; it will take the grace of God for them to survive.”
Many others made homeless were seen being consoled in the open by neighbours, relatives and friends as it approached midnight.
On the question of rapid response by the Liberia National Fire Service, residents said they only saw a fire truck attempting to reach the scene, but later made a u-turn and left without getting to the point of impact “because the houses are so jammed there’s no road to get to the fire.”
Nonetheless, nearby houses were prevented from falling victim to the fire due to the courageous intervention of the community youth, who were hailed for ‘massively’ fighting to quench the blaze.
Meanwhile, community chairman Tamba sent out a passionate plea, saying: “What we are praying for now is for the government and other goodwill people to come to our aid. Most of us are not able of build houses again. Everything we had burned to ashes. Look at me. The only thing I have now is the clothes I’m wearing.”
“Some of the people whose houses burned, don’t have place to sleep too tonight and it may continue like this if nobody comes to help us,” Tamba added.
Scores of New Kru Town residents stormed the scene and some were seen searching through the debris in an apparent bid to retrieve important materials that may have been missed by the fire.
About an hour after the fire minimally subsided, a young man managed to help a woman pull out her mattress and a few household utensils, and they were seen pulling these materials elsewhere to pass the night.