Some 14 people were injured, and millions of naira worth properties were destroyed in Lagos on Tuesday, June 2, 2015 as a tanker, filled with petrol , with number plate KJA 238 XN, fell off the Iyana-Ipaja bridge, in Lagos Nigeria.
The highly flammable product was ignited resulting in an explosion and fire that raged for about 10 hours,reports the Vanguard.
Some of the property destroyed included the offices a popular recording company, Remi Odus; electrical cables, three buildings, 44 shops, six tricycles and 22 vehicles, amongst others.
The affected areas included Adebayo, Jafojo, Oremeji, Abule Oki, Ipaja Road and the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.
The incident happened about an hour after midnight which was probably why no lives were lost. The tanker approached from the Agege axis of the road and lost control, falling off the narrow bridge at Iyana-Ipaja, and spilling its contents which somehow got ignited and spread a pool of fire into five adjoining streets on the axis.
There were conflicting views about the actual cause of the incident which some attributed to fatigue on the part of the driver, while others said it was caused by brake failure.
One account had it that the tanker veered off the Iyana-Ipaja Bridge after experiencing brake failure. The report said the tanker exploded 40 minutes after the accident.
Another account had it that a haulage vehicle, whose driver was avoiding arrest by the Police, collided with a broken-down tanker on the Iyana-Ipaja Bridge and veered off the bridge.
It was uncertain what ignited the fire but Mr. Michael Adedayo, a resident, said that the fire was ignited at Bakare Jafojo Street where the fuel had spilled to.
He said: “I do not know when the accident occurred but the tanker driver and the night security officials raised alarm to alert the residents of the possible havoc. Few minutes after this, the explosion occurred from the Bakare Jafojo Street. When we came out, the entire community was enveloped in thick black smoke. Seeing this, none of us could wait to extinguish the fire. We had to wait for the state fire service officials,” he added.
Eye witnesses said both the tanker driver and his conductor escaped unhurt, while 14 others sustained minor injuries and were treated and discharged by medics of the Lagos State Ambulance Services, LASAMBUS.
Street urchins, popularly known as area boys, took advantage of the situation to loot several shops, carting away valuables before the arrival of law enforcement agents restored order in the area.
Newly sworn in Lagos State governor, Akinwumi Ambode, visited the scene of the inferno after daybreak, and pledged to look into the situation.
Many of the traders wept profusely at the scene, lamenting their losses.
One of the victims, Remi Odus, lamented that the sudden incident could send the victims out of business.
“Many of us stocked our shops with goods before the close of work, unknown to us that tragedy will occur. Millions of Naira have been lost and the tanker driver is nowhere to be found,” he said.
A tricyclist (Keke) rider, identified as Sina, said he got his tricycle on hire purchase and was yet to complete payment when the incident occurred.
“If I knew an inferno will occur, I would have parked my ‘keke’ (tricycle) in another place. I have not even paid up to 1/4 of the money and now I am left without hope,” he lamented.
The Director of the Lagos State Fire Services, Mr. Fadipe, and South West Information Officer, National Emergency Management Agency NEMA, Ibrahim Farinloye, who were also at the scene of the incident, said no lives were lost, but that 14 people sustained minor injuries and had received treatment.
The traffic situation in the area was light as motorists stayed off the axis for some time until normalcy was restored.
In a related development,a similar inferno was narrowly avoided at Magbon, Badagry, when another tanker laden with 33, 000 litres of petrol was said to have collided with a truck, spilling its content upon the road. The also occurred overnight and was jointly handled by the state fire services.
Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, promised to compensate those who lost property and assist them get back to their normal businesses soonest.
Ambode assured that as soon as he received the official report of the accident, his administration would within the next 48 hours do something positive to ensure that life returns to normal for victims.
He said: “As at 1a.m. this morning, a tanker loaded with 33,000 litres of petrol fell from Ipaja Bridge and spilled all its contents within the environs of Ipaja, covering almost five streets here. In the last four hours, all our emergency agencies have been effectively on ground and we have been able to manage and control consequences of what 33,000 litres of petrol would have done to this neighbourhood.
“We would ensure that all those who have lost properties and their shops are compensated; we would quickly find a way to help them get back to their normal business lives. I will receive the report of the fire incident in the next 48 hours and we would ensure that we do something positively to ensure that lives can return to normal.”
He added that the emergency agencies had reported that the fire had been put under control, adding that two other similar incidents were recorded in Badagry and Ojo town overnight.
Ambode said the incidents have shown more reasons why tanker drivers must re-examine their operations because, according to him, the state government cannot afford to continue losing precious lives and property to indiscipline on the part of tanker drivers.
“It would also mean that our tanker drivers have to start to do something about their operations. We cannot continue to record losses of lives and properties because our tanker drivers are not disciplined”, the governor said.
The Executive Secretary of Agbado/Oke-Odo Local Council Development Area, Famoyiran, commended the governor, the state Police Commissioner and the emergency agencies for their quick intervention which he said saved the community from serious damage.
Confirming the loss of property as well as the impact of the explosion, Head of Operations, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, Mr. Femi Giwa, said that 14 persons sustained varying degrees of injuries but “were treated at the scene by the health officials attached to Lagos State Ambulance Service, LASAMBUS and discharged immediately.”