Prof. Florence Obi, Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar (UniCal), has decried the lack of functional fire service in Cross River as what aggravated the fire incident in the institution, late on Thursday Feb. 1.
Obi disclosed this on Saturday in an interview while on inspection of the site of the fire incident that destroyed the institution’s central store.
According to reports, the Federal, State and and Fire Services of the Margaret Ekpo International Airport are all few metres away from the institution.
The VC who was physically aggrieved with the situation said if Calabar had a functional fire service station, the situation would have been saved.
“When I received the call that night, at about 8.50 p.m., I rushed to the State Fire Service and they said their trucks were down, the Federal Fire Service said the same thing.
“I had to rush to the Nigeria Port Authority, (NPA) but they told me they were discharging fuel, so they could not move their truck, painfully I called the Airport Authority and the person that picked the call said their trucks were also down.
“This was heart breaking because I thought the Airport was suppose to have standby fire trucks for emergencies, it was in EPZ that they eventually allowed their fire truck to move to the site of the incident, by then it was three hours after.
“Even when the truck got to the scene, it could do nothing, the students who had already done 85 per cent of the job of putting out the fire had to be fetching water from the fire truck to attack the remaining parts that were still burning,” she said.
She said she was very proud of the students of the institution who were really brave and worked hard to put out the fire and prevented it from moving to the nearby buildings despite the fact that there were no taps around.
She stated that the students and available staff were running from the hostels with water to extinguish the fire, the even started evacuating the nearby buildings, the Students Affairs and Medical Centre building to avoid further damage.
While appealing to the Federal and State Governments to ensure that facilities of the fire service were functional, she called on them to also assist the institution that had lost everything in its central store, especially equipment donated by the Tertiary Education Fund (TETFund).
She also appealed to the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) as well as the institution’s alumni and other corporate organisations to assist the university.
The VC who thanked men of the Nigeria Police Army, Department of State Security (DSS) and other security agencies for their support added that they had set up a panel to investigate the immediate and remote cause of the incident and what was lost in the fire.