Eugene Agham Lagos
At least two persons including a pregnant woman were have been confirmed dead in Monday fire outbreak caused by spillage from a crashed petroleum tanker at Oke-Afa area of Ejigbo, Lagos.
The tanker, which was loaded with petroleum product allegedly crashed on Monday causing gridlock in and out of the area.
It was gathered that the tanker was heading inward Isolo, when it fell on reaching a bad spot at Oke-Afa, spilling its content into the drainage and on the road.
Since the incident occurred, effort was not made to remove the affected truck which hampered free-flow of traffic in which passengers were trapped for hours. As at 2am, motorists were still on the road.
Witnesses said that gridlock had continued with motorists and commuters from Ikotun, Ejigbo, Jakande Estate, Bucknor, Isheri and Ijegun, among others, finding it difficult to move out of Oke-Afa.
In a bid to ease the traffic, commercial bus drivers were alleged to have removed the red tape barricading the spot which prevented vehicular and human movements driving outward Ikotun.
The witnesses alleged that in a bid to meander through the only bridge leading into Ejigbo from Isolo, a spark occurred, prompting vehicles to hurriedly make a detour.
Taiwo Ishiru, a mechanic at the refuse dump in the area said that unfortunately for one of the bus drivers, he reversed right into a pool of the spilled petroleum that ignited fire. He said that some passengers sustained minor degrees of burns in their bid to scamper out of the vehicle.
“Unfortunately, a pregnant woman and the driver of the bus were burnt in the process” he added.
A man, Chidi Nwabundu, blamed the cause of the tragedy on failure and inefficiency of government’s emergency agencies.
He said: “Perhaps this incident would have been averted had some of the passengers not urge our driver to take the route. The bus was coming from Ikotun but I boarded it from NNPC bus-stop.
“There was an argument between the passengers on whether or not the driver should take the barricaded road. It degenerated into a heated argument as some passengers were against it, while others urged him on because they claimed they were already late for work.
“Before we knew it, other vehicles in front started reversing in a hurry, with some of the passengers jumping out and shouting fire. Our driver also made an attempt to leave the place, but to our shock, our bus ignited a fire. I jumped out and hit my knee on the ground. I hurriedly stood up and continued running. I can’t tell how I managed to run to a safe place. It was by the grace of God. By the time I got to a safe place and looked back, the whole vehicle had been engulfed by fire.”
Some residents and commuters blamed government officials for the cause of the tragedy.
One of them, a motorist, Mr Taiwo Ogunsesan, said: “What did government emergency agencies do when the incident happened? Why did they wait till today, after the tragedy had struck before they all came out?
“Again, I learnt fire service officials poured chemicals to douse the effect of the petrol. If they did, why did it ignite fire? Should they wait until lives perish before doing what is supposed to be done? They should be held responsible for the death of the two persons.
Another resident, Iya Modinat said: “We don’t have any government in this country. These people you see here (referring to the rescue agencies) were not around yesterday. They waited until a pregnant woman and driver lost their lives before they came out. Look at how they were burnt like goats simply because government response teams failed to do their job.
“Why were they not here to prevent the bus drivers from taking the barricaded way, after all, the incident happened at about 7am?
“If they were here earlier, this would not have happened.”
The truck was later moved out, while fire service officers were seen pouring chemicals on the affected portions.
Emergency response teams like the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps, NSCDC, Lagos State Neighbourhood Corp (LNSC), Lagos State Traffic Management Authority , (LASTMA) and the police were seen at the scene.