Dry and dusty harmattan adds fuel to the flames

A raging fire destroyed more than 50 tents in the El Yakub internally displaced persons’ camp on Monday, May 3.

The fire broke out at about noon. No one was injured but residents lost animals, including chickens, goats and sheep.

Koise Muhammad told RNI that although he lost many animals in the fire he was grateful that no one had died.

In an effort to bring relief to the victims, the Borno State government distributed clothes, rice, maize and other items among those affected.

On Sunday, May 2, traders at the Muna Market in Maiduguri lost most of their merchandise in a fire and were left without any source of livelihood.

Alhaji Bulama Modu Ngubdo, the chairman the Borno Grains Traders’ Association, said stalls and properties “worth millions” were destroyed and most vendors lost their wares.

He said many were left without any source of income, which meant they would not be able to feed and clothe their families.

Since the establishment of the market 34 years ago in 1987, he said, there had never been such a disaster.

“It was catastrophic for almost all of the vendors,” he said.

Authorities have warned residents of Maiduguri – and particularly those in internally displaced persons’ camps – to take every precaution to prevent fire outbreaks during the harmattan season.

Harmattan is a dry and dusty northeast trade wind that originates in the Sahara desert and blows over West Africa into the Gulf of Guinea.

It is common in the dry season. It has been the cause of many runaway fires in the northeast of Nigeria and has caused untold destruction and devastation.

The dust-laden wind causes havoc, not only because it fans fires, but also because of the haze that comes with it limits visibility and blocks the sun for several days.

Sometimes it results in dust storms or sandstorms and it can cause severe crop damage.

The internally displaced persons’ camps are particularly at risk of fire because of the congestion and number of tents.

If a fire − fanned by the harmattan – breaks out in a camp it can cause immense destruction and leave residents without a roof over their heads and with no essential items or food.

In the recent past, fires have broken out in many of these camps, including in host communities.

Attacks by insurgents, who indiscriminately start the blazes, add to the fire hazard.

Monguno Camp in the Monguno Local Government Area, El Miskin Camp and the Gongulong Lawanti community of Jere Local Government Area have suffered severely from destructive and sweeping fires in the past two months.

Residents of cities, towns and villages in Borno State have requested more back-up to tackle the reoccurrence of fires. They want efficient fire stations that can respond to emergencies.

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