Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Can't put out the fire. What does that mean?

When the emergency workers can't get to the fire, is that a legitimate sign of the state's capacity?

Raging fire burns through waterfront slum of sawmills and shacks in Nigeria’s largest city
A massive fire tore through a waterfront slum in Nigeria’s megacity of Lagos on Tuesday, burning down dozens of shack workshops and homes. When firefighters didn’t turn up, locals tried in vain to stop the blaze with buckets of water.

The fire hit along the dirty shoreline of the Lagos Lagoon, an area full of sawmills that process lumber floated into the city from hundreds of miles (kilometers) away. Massive piles of sawdust and loose shavings fill the area. By Tuesday afternoon, a thick plume of smoke rose from the mills over the city’s long Third Mainland Bridge, which links the metropolis to its islands…

Officials with Lagos state emergency services could not be reached for comment into Tuesday night. There were no firefighters, trucks or emergency equipment seen in the neighborhood, which can be difficult to reach and dangerous for outsiders.

Emergency services often lack equipment, manpower and competent staff in Nigeria, a nation of more than 160 million people whose economy is fueled largely by crude oil. Across Lagos, many areas lack water lines, meaning officials often let fires burn themselves out rather than call in water tankers that can take hours to reach the scene…

Fire remains a major threat in Nigeria, where many people store gasoline and diesel in their homes to run generators for electricity…

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