IVORY COAST – A huge fire ripped through a paint factory in the Ivorian capital of Abidjan on Wednesday, causing multiple explosions, destroying nearby businesses and leaving two people in hospital.
A factory employee suffered severe burns and a firefighter was poisoned by gas fumes in the blaze, which sent a thick column of smoke high above the city's industrial zone.
Several other people were slightly injured in the fire at the Drocolor paint factory, according to police sources.
Dozens of firefighters were deployed to tackle the blaze, which also spread to the nearby shops and boutiques, gutting at least 12 stores.
Groups of young men ran with buckets and bowls of water in a bid to put out the fire in small shops, and others frantically sought to remove petrol cans, crates and other flammable material.
"The fire started around 8am, 9am -- there were flames, then about a dozen explosions. Then the fire spread very quickly," said Dieudonne Ghakobi, who runs a small upholstery business.
"The fire was impossible to stop. The firemen can't do anything, they don't have the means," said blacksmith Bema Kone, who told AFP that responders had carried out a fire drill at the same factory just two weeks ago.
Firefighters eventually brought the blaze under control at around midday and security forces were deployed in the area to prevent any looting.
In tears, Abu Bama, who also works in upholstery, said his entire livelihood had gone up in flames.
"They warned me there was a fire. But by the time I arrived it was too late -- I've lost everything. The shop, my stock, the armchairs I was repairing," said the distraught 32-year-old.