A fire in a commercial building south of Benin’s capital has resulted in the death of at least 35 people, according to authorities who have initiated an investigation. In footage captured by Benin’s public broadcaster, the aftermath of the fire in Seme-Podji, situated 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of the capital Porto-Novo, showed the devastated ruins of the building and charred wreckage of cars and motorcycles. A fire official, Dallys Ahouangbegnon, informed broadcaster ORTB that the incident occurred at a location known for gasoline storage and handling. Before firefighters arrived, three individuals were rescued by passersby.
A statement by Beninese prosecutor Adam-Bongle Abdoubaki, published on local outlet benin-news.com, revealed that the fire likely started during the unloading of bags of gasoline. The incident took place on Saturday morning and resulted in the death of one child, with over a dozen people sustaining injuries. Abdoubaki noted the establishment of a crisis unit to update the families of the victims, gather information to determine the cause of the fire, and identify any criminal responsibility.
Expressing her distress, Marie Akpotrossou, a representative from the local prefecture, attributed the high number of fatalities to the sale of illicit gasoline. She emphasized the urgent need to address this illegal trade.