*Victims seek help
By Francesca Iwambe
Although the cause of the fire was not immediately ascertained, it was learnt that it started early Saturday when the traders were still in their houses.
The oil mill market is a popular mid-week market situated in Rumuokwurusi community in the Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the state.
The market attracts traders who bring their goods from neighbouring states on Wednesdays.
An eyewitness said the fire which started at about 6:45am raged for several hours before firefighters arrived to put it out.
While counting their losses, some of the traders lamented the impact the inferno would have on their businesses, even as they called on Governor Nyesom Wike to come to their aid.
A middle-aged woman who simply gave her name as Ebere said she was still asleep when her phone rang, only for the caller to break the sad news to her.
She said, “This morning, I was still sleeping when I received a call that the market was on fire. When I got there, all my goods and those of others had been destroyed.
“A trailer load of yam, garri and charcoal which we off-loaded all burnt.
“Please, Governor Wike, come and help us. We are dying because of this fire!”
Another victim who said she was a widow cried uncontrollably saying she borrowed money to purchase the goods in her two shops, which had been consumed.
“I am a widow, my husband died since 2007. I borrowed the money that I used in buying things and I am still paying interest.
“My two shops and all the tubers of yam I bought have burnt to ashes. Who is going to help me? How do I pay back the money I borrowed?
“That is what I am thinking now,” she said while fighting back tears.
Speaking on the incident, the Chairman, Community Development Committee, Rumuokwrushi, O. C Wosu, said the cause of the fire was still unknown even as he expressed happiness that no life was lost.
“I got distressed calls from many traders calling me that some section of the oil mill market was on fire.
“I quickly called the fire service. As God will have it, the Total E&P fire service, the Shell fire service also came, and they were able to contain the fire.
“I thank God that there was no casualty. The traders' goods were affected, you know, goods, including buildings worth over N500,000.
“I call on the Rivers State and the local government to come and assist these people,” he pleaded.