Geoffrey Anyanwu, Awka
Seven persons were yesterday morning confirmed dead in the petrol tanker fire accident that occurred Saturday night very close to the Anambra State Governor’s Lodge in Amawbia, near Awka.
Scores of persons sustained varying degrees of injury, while several cars, houses and shops were also gutted by the fire in the accident that occurred at about 9pm.
Confirming the casualty figure yesterday, the Anambra State police public relations officer, Haruna Mohammed, said: “So far, a total number of seven corpses were certified dead at various hospitals by medical doctors, while the only surviving victim was referred to the University Teaching Hospital, Nnewi, and was admitted at the intensive care unit of the hospital.
“Consequently, out of the seven corpses confirmed dead, three were deposited at Amaku General Hospital’s morgue, two at Regina Caeli Hospital and another two at Piston Hospital’s morgue for postmortem examination.”
The petrol tanker, loaded with petroleum products, was said to have lost control and rammed into the Amawbia Roundabout, bursting into flames.
A team of firefighters had a rough time battling to put out the fire until midnight.
A witness told Daily Sun that the 40-foot tanker came through Amawbia bypass and was negotiating the bend at the roundabout connecting Zik Avenue when it crashed and burst into fire.
Governor Willie Obiano, who visited the scene of the accident the same night to personally ascertain the extent of damage, promised the injured victims that the state government would write off their hospital bills.
He also said that people whose properties were burnt would be compensated, saying, “What happened is unfortunate and it is calamitous. We pray God to grant those who lost their lives eternal rest, and for those in the hospital, we shall offset their medical bills and also compensate those whose businesses were affected by the fire.”
Also affected by the fire were the premises of the Anambra State Fire Service as well as the security post of the Anambra State Governor’s Lodge in Amawbia.
Men of the Anambra State Police Command who were deployed to the area to ensure that hoodlums did not capitalise on the situation to loot people’s property had a hard time containing the situation.
However, the sector commander of Federal Road Safety Commission, Mr. Andrew Kumajayi, who was also on hand Saturday night with his men to rescue people, said: “We got signal of the incident and mobilised men to the scene of the incident.”
Speaking to newsmen yesterday, the leader of the Hausa community in Amawbia, Alhaji Mamood Sani, confirmed that five of his people died in the fire, while one person was missing.
He said: “The incident happened in front of our residence, where we do business, and most of them sell suya and food items. Some sell other goods. We have been here for decades in Amawbia.
“We were lucky to have evacuated women and children, so it only affected our men. As I speak to you, five persons have died and one person is missing. Those injured are at Nwarusi Private Hospital and others are at Amaku General Hospital and Regina Caeli hospital in Awka.”
Sani said his people lost millions in the fire and appealed to the state government and good-spirited individuals to come to their assistance.
Meanwhile, the driver of the tanker that lost control of the vehicle was said to have run away.
According to security operatives who earlier held him, he escaped when the tanker burst into fire.
“When the head of the tanker disengaged from the vehicle, he was shouting that the vehicle will go on fire and we stopped him from escaping. But, when the tanker exploded and the fire started, we had to help and save the situation and I think that was when he ran away,” one of them said.