Nigeria: Lagos Island fireworks blaze kills at least one

A fire at a warehouse storing fireworks has ripped through Lagos, Nigeria's biggest city.

An explosion in a warehouse has sparked a major fire and killed at least one person in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city and commercial capital.

Officials said a building storing fireworks in the largest market area of Lagos Island exploded, and the ensuing blaze spread to up to nine buildings.

The blast reportedly shook windows in homes miles away and a thick cloud of smoke could be seen over the city.

More than 30 people have been injured.

At the scene

A cloud of smoke billowed from the scene of the explosion, accompanied by the sparks of fireworks.

The sound of popping and crackling carried on as the fire raged on in this densely populated part of Lagos, full of closely packed buildings in narrow streets.

Residents of the area told me they thought it was a bomb at first when a blast shook buildings around Jankara Market, the largest in Lagos.

A few people showed me shrapnel wounds they suffered even though they were a fair distance from the explosion.

There was little that people could do but watch, with some trying to get photographs of the incident on their mobile phones.

Emergency workers say they had problems getting past the huge crowds of onlookers, similar to a complaint they raised in June when a plane crashed into a residential area in another part of Lagos.

An official from the National Emergency Management Agency (Nema) told AFP news agency that a charred body had been pulled out of the building where the fireworks detonated.

The force of the initial blast was such that some residents reportedly mistook it for a bomb or a falling plane.

Windows in nearby buildings were shattered and a neighbouring school was badly damaged.

Desperate search

Thousands of people in the area gathered to watch, as the fire destroyed neighbouring buildings.

Some were desperately searching the crowd for information on family members while the fire was burning and sporadic fireworks explosions could still be heard.

"Everything has burned now. I don't see my brother now or his son - I've not seen anybody now. They might have collapsed inside there, nobody can enter there," said one man.

Some residents jumped out of windows in panic as fireworks exploded long after the initial blaze, according to a statement from Nema quoted by AFP.

The BBC's Tomi Oladipo described seeing other people who had sustained shrapnel wounds some distance from the fire.

Some were hurt as they tried to put out the flames and were taken to hospital for treatment.

Location map

Firefighters took about an hour to reach the scene, partly because of the huge crowds, our correspondent says.

Residents grabbed hoses from fire engines in attempt to fight the blaze, but the water quickly ran out, Associated Press reports.

A government official told Reuters news agency that the firefighting operation was hampered by the risk of new explosions from so many fireworks.

"It's very dangerous for the firemen to go in, because the government don't want any of these men to be injured."

Police and security officials reportedly recovered mortar-like fireworks and empty firework shells from the scene.

Our correspondent says that for years there have been calls to ban fireworks.

However, they continue to be widely used during the Christmas and new year holidays.

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