. . . Students, Management, Narrate Traumatic Experience
By Ifeoma Ezenyilimba
The fire that gutted a hostel block at Loretto Special Science School, Adazi-Nnukwu, may have been caused by an electric power surge. It was the second of such incident in less than two years, reports Ifeoma Ezenyilimba. This much was gathered by Fides during a visit to the school in the wake of the latest fire incident which took place on January 17 this year.
It was gathered that the fire, which started around 7pm and lasted for over 50 minutes, sparked off from the extreme end of the JaneFrances Hostel of the school and affected the entire 130-capacity hostel, destroying property worth millions of Naira belonging to the students,staff members and the school.
When Fides visited the scene of the inferno again on January 29, the School Management, staff members and students still appeared traumatized by the experience.
Speaking to Fides, the Manager of Loretto Special Science Secondary School, Adazi-Nnukwu, Rev Fr Francis Arinze Ude, who had left the school premises to St Joseph’s Catholic Parish, Neni, where he resided, said he had just come back when he was alerted over the phone at about 7.07 pm.
According to the manager, by the time he drove back to the school, the inferno had escalatedbeyond what the school could handle. He said it took 30-40 minutes before the fire fighters came from Awka to the scene.
Fr Ude said by the time the fighters arrived, the fire had already affected up to 60% of the hostel that was also known as Red Up Hostel.
The manager stated that the fire fighters were able to salvage only 10% of the hostel building, while the property that belonged to the 106 students that were accommodated in the hostel alongside those of the teacher that had a room in the block and the school property that ran into millions or Naira were destroyed. He however thanked God that no person was affected and no life was lost.
On what might have caused the fire, Rev Fr Ude said they suspected electric power surge, because according to him, the security personnel and some of the students said they heard sparks and cracks of electric bulbs in the Red Up Hostel before the fire escalated.
The Manager recalled that two years ago, fire also affected the same Red Up Hostel even though the magnitude was lower.
Fr Ude said the Management was considering disconnecting electric power supply from the hostels, and instead, power them with solar, with the power house to be built far away from the buildings. He also said the School Management had phased out the use of charcoal irons by the students and stopped the use of irons in the hostels. It was believed that the first fire was caused by a charcoal iron.
He said the school had provided a laundry hall far away from the hostel buildings where the students could do their washing and ironing, while electric irons would be provided for the students by the school also. He said to make the use of the laundry hall manageable, each of the classes of the students would have days for their laundry and ironing of their clothes.
The manager added that the school management had also initiated plans with the fire service agency to set up fire alarms in the school, and had also engaged the service of experts so as to ascertain the authentic causes of the fire, and prevent such recurrence.
On how the school was able to take care of the affected students’ accommodation after the one week emergency break, Fr Ude said they were currently accommodated in an old hostel block that the school planned to renovate. He said the school provided them with new double bunk beds and mattresses which cost over N3M.
To also support the affected students to get over the trauma, the manager said the school called an emergency PTA meeting and introduced what he called “adopt an affected student”. He said the PTA members adopted the affected students, and replaced things like their school uniforms, outing wear and day wear for them.
He called on the government and people of goodwill to come to the rescue of the school towards the rebuilding and equipping of the burnt hostel. This was even as he appreciated the Anambra State Governor, Dr Willie Obiano, who sent representatives and promised assistance. He also appreciated the former Governor of the State, Sir Peter Obi, who visited the school and promised to get back to them.
Others were Senator Uche Ekwunife of Anambra Central Senatorial Zone, who visited the school with a cash donation and promise of 20 mattresses and Hon Dozie Nwankwo of Anaocha/Njikoka/Dunukofia Federal Constituency, who gave monetary gifts.
Narrating her experience, the prefect of the Red Up Hostel, Francisca Ifeanonwu, described the inferno as unimaginable, saying that she was still traumatised.
The dormitory prefect narrated how she had locked the hostel and went to the chapel for their regular evening prayers and that it was on their way to the refectory for their dinner from the chapel that they noticed sparks from their hostel which threw the students into a panic.
‘But before we could move further, the fire which started at the extreme corner of the hostel had affected the entire building and destroyed all their belongings,’ she said.
Ifeanonwu, who is an SS 3 student, said some of the nurses of St Joseph’s Hospital, Adazi-Nnukwu, and other people of goodwill came in and assisted in stopping the fire. She thanked God that no student was in the hostel as at the time of the inferno and no casualty was recorded.