Disturbed by incessant tanker explosions/accidents and the unquantifiable losses recorded each time, IFEANYI AGUMBA. reports that the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) and relevant stakeholders have devised ways to reduce response time especially for emergencies that occur in gridlock.

In January, a 44,000-litre tanker with registration number FKJ999XX exploded by Toyota Bus Stop along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway burning several vehicles and causing horrendous gridlock that affected other parts of the state for hours.

Another tanker laden with Premium Motor Spirit exploded on the Kara Bridge, killing at least two people, injuring others, and destroying over 20 vehicles in January. There was also the case of two tankers that gutted fire around Second Rainbow Bus Stop that affected some trailers, buses, and private vehicles trapped in the usual traffic snarl in the port corridor.

Last year alone, the state recorded over 300 tanker accidents/ explosions in Lagos with immeasurable human and material losses to both government and individuals.

Worried by the spate of the occurrences and the challenges usually faced by rescuers in deploying heavy-duty equipment to contain the disaster, LASEMA on Monday organised mass casualty road traffic accident simulations to improve the skillset of emergency workers.

The simulation which also served to acquaint the rescuers with newly acquired light-duty state-of-the-art equipment, saw emergency responders move into a scene of a burning petro tanker with handheld cutters which they used to tear open vehicles and extricated trapped victims.

They also used motorbikes to navigate traffic, identified the exact points of fire and doused same with chemicals brought of boxes on the bikes, as relevant stakeholders cleared the way for fire trucks to move in.

While that was ongoing, the police, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) managed human and vehicular traffic to prevent secondary incidents.

Speaking at the occasion, the wife of Lagos State Governor, Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu said it would better emergency and disaster management as well as reduce risk reduction.

She commended the government for engaging two technical partners who will commence operations next month, to further improve service delivery, efficiency and effectiveness.

According to her, Lagos was extremely vulnerable to a high incidence of disasters and emergencies such as flooding, fire, road traffic accident, pipeline vandalism and explosions due to the peculiarity of its topography, climate condition, vegetation and strategic location.

“This is why the frequent occurrence of some of these incidents in Lagos metropolis is to be entirely expected while the responsible agency must be on its toes!

“These unfortunate occurrences destroy homes and several means of livelihoods but also leave their immediate environment blighted while jeopardising the entire society and economy of the state in the process.

“These attendant risks have meant that disaster managers must be equipped with sufficient knowledge and skills to protect lives and properties with emphasis placed on promoting disaster reduction concepts rather than response and recovery, with the ultimate objective of developing resilient societies and communities, as well as alleviating the financial burden of humanitarian assistance through proper ‘preparedness’ which is enhanced by simulation.”

Earlier, Commissioner for Special Duties, Tayo Bamgbose-Martins said the state government was striving to minimise loss of lives and properties during emergencies, which he said were bound to occur.

“In 2020 we had over 300 tanker accidents. Between December and now LASEMA has responded to 114 major emergencies saving lives and billions of naira worth of properties. While some were accidental, others could have been avoided with better awareness.

“These incidents have not only affected the state as a whole but individual households and businesses experiencing loss of income,” he said.

Bamgbose-Martins said the purchase of the new equipment, as well as the continuous support emergency services have received from the government, were all geared towards ensuring quicker response to all types of situations.

“Disaster prevention and management is a top priority of this administration and I can say with confidence and gratitude, that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has always supported the ministry and all the relevant agencies every time we call on his assistance.

“Lagos is densely populated and being the economic hub of Nigeria has made Lagos prone to disasters of varying causes ranging from global incidences to local industrial activities. The state has witnessed a series of accidents, flooding, gas explosions, fire outbreaks, pipeline vandalism and other mishaps.

“However, I am glad to say, that LASEMA and our sister agencies have lived up to the expectation that borne their existence. Loss of lives have been prevented, and the effect of many disasters

mitigated with their professional handling of such unfortunate events.

“This simulation exercise, the first this year, is to further prepare our agencies for better disaster

management and also show the level of preparedness of our agencies, stimulating our responders for any event that will need their expertise,” he said.

In his opening remarks, Director General (DG) LASEMA, Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu said the simulation was a demonstration of the agency’s new responsiveness to emergency situations.

Oke-Osanyintolu said from statistics available to LASEMA, casualties recorded in disasters last year were lower compared to 2019 and 2018, attributing the lower human casualties to the improved rescue time and availability of the latest equipment.

“We have been able to manage all forms of disaster under the watch of Governor Sanwo-Olu…This is a simulation of an accident involving mass casualties. You can see that all the responders are working together with each focusing on their core areas of competence.

“We have helicopters, bikes, towing vehicles…These are the tools that we use to ensure we manage the golden hour.

“The state keeps on carrying a lot of sensitization and advocacy that is why we are going to put more emphasis on enforcement in 2021. We will ensure that our enforcement is very efficient and effective. We are collaborating with the ministry of justice, it is the orientation of our people that needs to be changed,” he said.