Thursday, January 9, 2014

Lagos tanker fire burns 15 to death


Scene of the tanker explosion in Kirikiri, Lagos.
At least 15 people lost their lives in Lagos on Tuesday night  when  a tanker  laden with 33,000 litres of petrol lost control and rammed into vehicles at Kirikiri, Lagos.
Our correspondents learnt that the tanker spilt all its content, thereby  causing the  fire that burnt  a branch of Sterling Bank at  Berger Suya Bus Stop, one  Automated Teller Machine, 11 vehicles and 60 shops.
Most of the  dead were said to be passengers of a commercial bus  (danfo)  that was  behind the  tanker when it fell and exploded.
An eyewitness claimed that  the  fire caused by the explosion  spread to Suya spots in the area  and burnt parked  vehicles . He added that the body of the tanker driver was glued to  his  seat for  over 40 minutes  before    rescue officials  removed  it.
A commercial bus driver, Murhi Lawal, who spoke to journalists while weeping profusely, said his bus was completely consumed by the fire.
He said, “Around 10pm on Tuesday, my bus developed a fault so I parked it in front of the  Sterling Bank branch. However, the guards on duty said I should move the bus  elsewhere so I decided to park  on the other side of the road so  that I could buy a fan belt.
“As I was attempting to install the belt, I saw the big truck speeding and it rammed into two vehicles before falling on its side and spilling all its content.
“I subsequently heard an explosion and then fire ensued. Before I could save my bus, the fire spread and consumed it.”
Some residents of the area told our correspondent that immediately the accident occurred,  15 people, mostly passengers of a commercial bus, lost their lives.
They said that Capital Oil, Julius Berger and Swift Oil deployed water trucks to put out the flames.
It was learnt that as they fought the fire, it continued to spread to other streets.
A shop owner, Collins Okafor, who claimed to be part of the rescuers, said he counted 13 bodies, excluding those of the tanker driver and his assistant.
He said, “Immediately after the explosion, we came together and started fighting the fire. We tried to save people but about 13 bodies littered the place. The tanker driver and his assistant were also burnt to death.
“One policeman was severely burnt by the fire but we were able to save him. We then proceeded to Sterling Bank and forced the gate open. The security guard had collapsed but we brought him out and he was taken to a nearby hospital.”
One of our correspondents, who entered the premises of  the bank, observed that its heavy duty generator was completely burnt.
The banking hall was also burnt while computers and other equipment were said to have been stolen by hoodlums during the rescue operation.
The President, Berger Business Community, Mr. Okey Udeagba, said about five  injured traders  were  rushed to   hospitals.
Udeagba said the market had been closed due to the fire, adding that  traders alone  lost at least N100m due to the  incident.
He said, “We did not lose any member to the fire  but five people were injured and are recuperating in different hospitals. Most of those killed were passengers and bystanders. However, we lost over N100m   to the fire.
“One of our members, Jones, lost all his goods which were stored in a truck while his shops were also burnt. He is probably the biggest victim financially speaking.”
He urged the state government to indemnify the victims and also avoid demolishing the shops.
When one of our correspondents approached Jones for comment, he said he was too distraught to speak on the issue.
Another victim, Okechukwu Mmadu, said he lost 12 heavy duty engines worth N8m to the fire.
He said, “When the accident happened, the truck spilled petrol  into  the gutters, leading to our shops. When the fire started, it spread to our shops through the gutters. I immediately fled but luckily not all my goods were burnt,” he said.
Policemen, officials of the Federal Road Safety Corps and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps were seen controlling the   crowd at the scene.
The spokesman, National Emergency Management Agency, South-West Zone, Ibrahim Farinloye, said the fire was put out around 1am on Wednesday.
Farinloye said, “Fifteen bodies were recovered by NEMA and the police. The fire was put out by a combined team of federal and state fire services. The fire lasted for about three hours. Many vehicles and 60 shops were affected.”
The Baale of  Ibafon, Kayode Okunlola, said there was a need for the Federal Government to curb the excesses of truck drivers, especially in the area.
The General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Dr. Femi Oke-Osayintolu, said the  injured victims were taken  to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja  and Gbagada General Hospital, Gbagada.
Oke-Osayintolu said a soil test would be conducted to ascertain the strength of the affected buildings after which the area would be fumigated.
The PUNCH gathered that  three  injured  victims were admitted into the  Gbagada General Hospital, while    others were referred to other general hospitals  in the state.
Two of the victims at the hospital in Gbagada are  23-year- old Suraju Adeniyi, who suffered 80 per cent burns and  45- year- old,  Moses Adebayo,  who suffered 40  per cent burns.
Another victim,  70-year-old Mrs. Rose Idowu, was said to have  been  rushed to the Lagos State University Teaching  Hospital, Ikeja,  where medical personnel battled to save her life but she passed on within an hour due to the severity of the burns she suffered.

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