Residents of the Iju-Ishaga area of Lagos were on Thursday afternoon sent into a panic as a rancorous explosion rocked the neighborhood.
What started out as a wet and rather calm day quickly turned into a frenzy at about 3:30 pm when a loaded gas tanker exploded around the Iju Hill axis of Ajuwon road.
Some witnesses say at least one person died in the blast that comes at a moment when the nation is trying to come to terms with a similar carnage that left almost 30 including students, dead in Lokoja.
The incident in Lagos left 16 persons critically injured, while scores of buildings and many cars were destroyed, some beyond repair.
A Damaged Tanker?
Speaking to Channels Television on Thursday at the site of the explosion, LASEMA’s Director of Operations, Engr Olatunde Akinsanya said the 16 injured persons were taken to the Iju Water Works clinic.
Akinsanya revealed that the ill-fated 30 ton LPG tanker which was being operated by Manna Gas Ltd, was supposed to offload its content at a gas station, but the station’s owner reportedly refused to allow him because a seal had been broken, indicating that the content had been tampered with.
Enraged by the refusal of the station manager to offload the content in his tanker, the driver moved out of the premises.
A few meters away from the gas station, the front tire of the tanker burst and the gearbox compartment struck the ground causing a spark that led to an explosion when it came in contact with gas that was leaking from the tanker.
The vehicle ended in a ditch, where a second explosion erupted.
Eyewitnesses told Channels Television that the second explosion sent the tanker flying and destroying buildings in its path, including a church.
The impact of the explosion spread about 300 radii from the scene of the incident, the LASEMA official said.
It was not yet clear at the time of reporting this story whether the driver of the tanker was still alive as he seemed to have sustained third-degree burns.
“I would have died with my children”
Narrating her close shave with death, Mrs. Maduka Lovelyn, a fruit seller said she had just returned from the market and was arranging her wares when the first blast erupted.
Mrs. Maduka and her kids were tending to customers when they saw a thick cloud of smoke rising a few meters from where her stall is situated.
The perturbed mother said she and her children were lucky to have escaped because they fled at the first cry of “fire! fire!” by some other residents who were closer to the blast spot.
“We were scared as we saw the smoke, it was too much,” Mrs. Maduka stressed as she revealed how it took a race through marsh and mud to get her family to safety.
Increasing casualty figures
Earlier in the day, the Lagos State Government had put the casualty figure at 16, however, a post-disaster assessment late on Thursday revealed that the total number of casualties is 30, consisting of 10 adult females and 20 adult males.
The report further shows that two of the 16 in critical conditions have been referred to the General Hospital in Ikeja.
LASEMA figures suggest that a total of 23 buildings were destroyed in the blast, while 15 vehicles were left with varying degrees of dents.
Prominent among the buildings destroyed are the X and Y Event Center and the Idera Oluwa Plank Market where 15 shanty shops were engulfed.
A tragedy, one too many
The fires stirred by the explosion have been extinguished and damping down has being carried out, but many questions trailing this incident are yet to be answered.
One such question is what should be done or is being done to ensure that there is no repeat of such an ugly incident, as Nigerians have witnessed such a horror too many times, with some happening in quick successions.
Thursday’s explosion comes just a few hours after 23 persons were killed following a tanker explosion at the Felele axis of Lokoja the Kogi State capital.
Over five vehicles were completely burnt in the road crash and eyewitnesses say some of the victims include students of Kogi Polytechnic.
The accident occurred after a truck laden with Premium Motor Spirit lost control following a brake failure and rammed into five other oncoming vehicles.
Eyewitnesses say over 50 people may have been killed in the blaze, including some residents who were waiting to board commercial vehicles by the roadside.
Reacting to the explosion, the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, expressed shock and sorrow.
“It is very sad to learn of the tragic loss of lives, many vehicles, property and other valuables in the petrol tanker fire,” he said.
Two-day mourning was declared in honour of the victims of the tanker explosion, but the masses ask for more to be done.
As with several incidents of this nature, many become emotional, sometimes tempers run wild and people blame the government.
Often, promises are made with assurances that the root causes of these accidents will be looked into, and the people can only hope that in no distant time, words will be matched with action, to ensure that such disasters are averted.