Details are emerging about the extent of the fire that gutted Liberia?s presidential palace yesterday, including the offices of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as the country was celebrating its 159th independence anniversary. Reporter Frank Sainworla was in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, and says the damage was extensive. He says President Sirleaf spoke Wednesday night in an apparent effort to calm the nerves of a tense country.
?The president addressed the nation from the foreign ministry where a hurriedly arranged reception was held. The reception that should have been held at the Executive Mansion for the three visiting heads of state ? John Kufuor of Ghana, Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast, and Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone.?
In her speech, President Sirleaf told Liberians that the situation though unfortunate was under control.
?It is unfortunate that at the end of what was really a blessed and wonderful day of celebration and joy by most Liberians that we had an incident at the Executive Mansion that involved a fire. We do not know the cause of the fire, and so we will undertake an investigation using foreign experts wherever necessary to make sure that we understand what the problem is so that we can take corrective measures. We want to thank all the Liberians who have shown concern and say to them that all is well; things are under control. We are calm; no one has been hurt.?
President Sirleaf says the fire incident taught Liberians a lesson.
?It?s a lesson to us, a lesson that sometimes we get a bit lax in times of peace and comfort, lax in the sense that we have the right responses to natural causes such as firefighting equipment. Sometimes we get lax in security because we?re one big happy family that want to go about our business of trying to seek our development and normalize our lives. This is just a wake up call to us that we need to be more cautious, more careful. We need to make sure that we have the right capacity and the right response to any kind of interruption in our normal welfare and normal lives.
Reporter Frank Sainworla says President Sirleaf plans to return to the fire-ravaged presidential palace for work today, Thursday.
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