A pregnant woman and 49 other persons were on Sunday, May 31, 2015 roasted to death as a fuel tanker ran into a building and caught fire at the Upper Iweka Roundabout in Onitsha, Anambra State.
Among the other victims of the tragic incident were children, some newspaper free readers at news stands, while about 15 vehicles were reportedly destroyed by the inferno.
Sources who witnessed the incident disclosed that around 3pm, one of the affected vehicles which was loading passengers in a park nearby and three motorcycles caught fire.
One of them, who identified himself only as Okechukwu, said the driver of the tanker was descending the Upper Iweka Road from the Enugu-Nkpor Road when the brake failed.
He added, “We learnt that the tanker suffered a brake failure and the driver lost control.
“I think he tried to stop the vehicle with some of the barriers on the road, but unfortunately the tanker rammed into a building and fell.”
According to him, the tanker which was headed to Asaba, Delta State capital, caught fire 10 minutes after it rammed into the building.
Another eyewitness, Joseph Ugwuanyi, said, “At about 1pm to 2pm, a fuel tanker rammed into the busy Asaba Park in Upper Iweka Road, Onitsha, and went up in flames, maiming scores. The fire lasted for approximately an hour before firefighters were able to control it.
“Many of us initially thought there were no casualties, though some people sustained serious injuries while fleeing the scene.
“However, it was later learnt after the fire subsided that there was a massive carnage of victims who were either caught unawares or those who were already seated in the now charred buses in the park.
“They reportedly were burnt beyond recognition in the hour-long intense fire.”
The state Commissioner of Police, Hosea Karma, who visited the scene of the incident with senior police officers of the command, directed the evacuation of the charred remains of the victims.
According to Punch, as of 5.15pm, charred bodies were still being evacuated from the area by security and para-military operatives as well as officers of the Federal Road Safety Corps.
The Commissioner of Police said, “All the persons inside the buses ─ I think about 12 buses ─ were burnt beyond recognition.
“Scores of other victims, who were still alive, were immediately rushed to a nearby hospital.
“We cannot state the number of those involved in the incident because we are still working. The number will come after the end of the evacuation.”
It was learnt that the state governor, Willie Obiano, broke down in tears at the scene of the incident.
The state Commissioner for Transport, Chief Chuma Mbonu, who described the incident as unfortunate said the government got an information that 14 vehicles were burnt, while scores of people were trapped.