Some unidentified policemen were yesterday declared missing at the Arepo area of Ogun State after one of the pipelines belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) exploded in the area.
The pipeline was severely ruptured following a severe gun duel between the police and vandals.
According to an eyewitness account, some policemen from the Anti-pipeline Task Force had stormed the area based on the alert they received that the vandals had struck again.
However, the vandals who saw the policemen from afar tried to scare them with their fire power, as they smartly manouvered the jungle, while attempting to make away with some of the stolen products.
The policemen were said to have engaged the pipeline vandals, who are currently at large, in a gun duel that saw them retreat into the swamp.
Accounts said the pipeline exploded during the shoot out between the policemen and the vandals when one of the bullets penetrated the steel frame casing the products and it exploded into balls of flames.
While the casualty number was yet to be ascertained, eyewitnesses claimed the explosion must have injured both the policemen and the vandals as they were still within the reach of the pipeline when the fire erupted.
Confirming the incident, the South-west Zonal spokesperson of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye, said the pipeline probably exploded as a result of heavy fire balls.
He said: “Although we are yet to ascertain what transpired and set off the pipelines, we figure the explosion must have been set off by fireballs during the exchange of gun fire.
“The police were alerted late Saturday night that vandals had struck again at Arepo. The team set off to investigate but the vandals tried to pursue them with their shooting but the police repelled them.
“However, due to the ruggedness of the terrain, we have not been able to carry out rescue operations there, so at the moment, we can’t ascertain the casualty number.”
As at press time, Farinloye said four policemen were rescued alive, adding that although the terrain was hampering rescue operations, the emergency team on ground was mapping out measures to conquer it.
THISDAY gathered that the emergency responders and the fire service are currently battling to contain the flames, to prevent it from spreading further
Meanwhile, goods worth millions of naira were yesterday destroyed by fire at the Low Cost Housing Estate Market Oke-Afa, in Ejigbo Local Council Development Area of Lagos.
Although no life was lost, over 30 shops were gutted by the fire suspected to have been caused by power upsurge.
According to eyewitness account, the damage would have been worse, but for a passerby who raised an alarm after noticing the unusual flames that were emanating from the back of the market.