Christopher Oji, Chinelo Obogo, Sunday Ani, Peter Anosike, and Doris Obinna, Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Hell literally descended upon the Abule-Ado area of Lagos on Sunday, as a deafening explosion set off a deadly inferno in the axis.
The communities in the area were shaken to its foundation, spreading fear, pain and death.
Many lives were lost in the explosion, which went off about 8.30am. A family of four, comprising the parents and two sons, were killed after being caught in the explosion on their way to church. It is believed that about 500 houses, cars and shops were affected by the explosion.
The Bethel Secondary School, a boarding school owned by the Catholic Church in Abule Ado, was brought down by the explosion, with many of its students injured and some feared dead. A parent, who pleaded anonymity, said among the dead were the school principal and a Reverend Sister.
Residents of the area and its surroundings are counting their losses following the tremor-like explosion that happened at the place yesterday.
The massive tremor that followed the explosion was felt in nearby and far-flung parts of Lagos.
Several buildings in places like Festac Town, Satellite Town, Amuwo-Odofin and other places in the axis had their roofs blown off, while some windows were shattered. Some vehicles parked in homes and in the streets were also affected, as their windscreens were shattered by the explosion.
Hundreds of terrified residents trooped into the streets, unsure of the cause of the massive blasts.
As gathered, the sound, which travelled as far as Oke-Afa, Agege, Iyana-Ipaja, threw residents of the area into a state of panic. While the residents were running helter-skelter and trying to unravel what was amiss, there came a ferocious fire.
The incident happened while many Christian faithful were in churches. The ugly development has rendered thousands of residents homeless. Some of the victims were seen wailing and packing the relics of their shattered property, heading to different directions.
Many other buildings far from the explosion scene in Abule Ado, Festac Extension and Amuwo Odofin, were also brought down while many others shook during the explosion that threw thousands of residents in panic and confusion.
The headquarters of the Lagos Province 3 of the Redeemed Church of God (RCCG) located on 24 Road, Festac Town, Lagos, is among over 70 buildings affected by the explosion.
The explosion, which occurred more than a kilometre away from the church premises, shattered its glass windows, injuring worshippers.
A parish of the First Baptist Church near the RCCG parish also lost a part of its roof to the explosion.
The roof of a parish of the Living Faith Church (Winners Chapel,) located at 7th Avenue, Festac Town, was also blown off by the explosion which equally shattered the roof of the Ark Parish of the RCCG at 1st Avenue, many kilometers away from the explosion scene.
The Odic Plaza, a motor parts mall and warehouse, Bush Bar Hotel, Green Horse Plaza which houses tyres, Arch Angel Catholic Church, Chino Plaza with many goods in it, and a mechanic village, all located inside the Trade Fair Complex, Ojo, were all hit by the explosion.
Vehicles were seen with crushed windscreens and dents from the explosion.
Many residents who had gone to church could not go back home while others didn’t have any home to go back to. A corpse was seen on the ground, close to the scene of the explosion.
None of the agencies on ground had been able to ascertain the number of casualties recorded and the fire was still burning as at 3:30p.m.
The cause of the explosion has yet to be ascertained, according to the National Emergency Management Agency, which could not confirm the death toll.
But residents whom Daily Sun spoke with said the vibrations felt from the blast made them believe that a dynamite or bomb might have been set off at the site of the pipeline for it to have had such devastating impact, completely destroying over 35 houses and blowing off the roofs of hundreds others.
As at the time of filing this report, the appropriate authorities are yet to state the actual cause of the explosion, but there are speculations that it might not be unconnected with an implosion that started in a particular building. It is believed that the said building probably housed explosives and combustible materials which imploded and escalated to other buildings in the area.
Some other eyewitnesses said that the explosion was caused by a property of the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) that was violated.
“There was a truck carrying granite into the estate, but the tyre was hooked by an object. It was the process of trying to manoeuvre through the object that there was a spark beneath the vehicle. That was the beginning of the explosion,” a resident said.
A visit to the scene revealed what was like a warzone. The impact of the explosion destroyed about 500 buildings, including a dormitory. Sadly, many of the students were trapped in their rooms as at the time the explosion occurred. Some of the houses were completely destroyed while others were partly affected. Some roofs were totally blown off, in a matter of seconds. While some of the buildings went up in flames, others had their roofs squeezed, shrunk and broken into bits with parts of the building caving in.
A boarding school, Bethlehem Girls College appears to be the worst hit of the tragedy. A number of the students, including their principal, who were in morning mass died, while others trapped were rescued alive. The explosion also took the life of a Catholic priest who was officiating at the Catholic school which was located in the area.
Men of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Lagos State Fire Service, Red Cross Society of Nigeria, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), and different security agencies were on ground to battle the fire and prevent more damage.
The Public Relations Officer, LASEMA, Nosa Okunbor, said a team was already deployed to the scene for investigation, adding that the agency was awaiting details and preliminary reports from the team.
The Lagos State Commandant of Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, Mr F.A.Adeyinka told our reporters that the actual number of dead people could not be ascertained as many people were still buried inside the collapsed buildings
He said that his men were able to rescue many of the affected people, some of wehom he claimed sustained varied degrees of injuries, and were taken to the hospitals in Alakija and Festac town.
Chairman of Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area, Mr Valentine Buraimoh, said that what caused the explosion was a leakage from a gas company that was located in the area.
According to him, the gas company was being guarded by soldiers but when they noticed the leakage, they vacated their duty post and minutes afterwards, the explosion occurred.
The chairman clarified that there was nothing like vandalism in the explosion.
“Going by the brief that I have received, the cause of the explosion is leakage from a gas company that is located in the area. It is not vandalism, because vandalism usually happens in the night but this happened by 9am,” he said.
But some residents have refused to accept claims in some quarters that it was a gas explosion. They claimed that it was a bomb explosion.
A resident who identified herself as Mama Divine, buttressed residents’ assumption with information they got from soldiers guarding the pipeline as well as the effect of the explosion.
She said: “That is a bomb explosion. My street is very far from the scene of the explosion but all the storey buildings on that street which had PVCs lost them to the explosion. The whole buildings shook and their PVCs all fell off.
“According to the security personnel who were guarding the pipeline, the thing came like a rocket and hit the pipeline and the next thing was that smoke starting billowing into the sky, forming thick smoke before the deafening sound.”
Another resident, Mr Mike, corroborated Mama Divine’s assertion, insisting that the perpetrators must have targeted the Lagos Trade Fair Complex, which is only demarcated from Abule-Ado by a fence, or the Bethlehem College.
“The Bethlehem College was badly affected. In fact, nobody can say the exact number of persons that died at the college, but information so far indicates that a Reverend Sister is still missing since after the explosion. Her phone is ringing but she is not picking and nobody has seen her. Another sister, a female worker at the college was roasted beyond recognition.
“Many of the students are currently in different hospitals receiving treatments, while so many others are yet to be found. That’s why I said that nobody can give accurate casualty figure at the College for now,” Mike said.
The owner of the Garden Resort Hotel, located on Garden Resort Street, Off Gani Adams Way, Abule-Ado, is currently in hospital receiving treatment. His wife, who spoke to Daily Sun, said the incident left a lot of their workers, including her husband seriously wounded.
“I have 15 lodgers and eight workers who were here before the incident. As I speak to you now, I don’t know their whereabouts. A member of my church even died in this incident. A lot of children in that school also died. What happened here is more than pipeline explosion; it looks like a bomb,’ she narrated.
Another resident who identified himself as Joseph Ejindu said his son is also in hospital. Ejindu, who lives on Garden Resort, said he lost everything to the incident.
There is also insinuation by some residents that the suspected bomb might have been planted in a tipper truck, which was also burnt beyond recognition.
One of the residents on Garden Resort Street, James Chibuzo, said he escaped death only by a hair’s breath.
“Before the explosion, I just had a strange feeling and decided to leave my house. I came out and entered a motorcycle to the bus stop along Badagry Expressway. Just as I left, I heard the sound of the explosion. When I rushed back, the house I left moments ago had been completely destroyed.”
Director-General of LASEMA, Femi Osanyintolu, said investigations were still ongoing, but said the pipeline had earlier been vandalised by unknown persons.
“We can’t say what caused the explosion but we have to carry out thorough investigations because this is an unusual occurrence. However we are on top of the situation and nobody is trapped in any of the buildings. Daily Sun reporters however saw bodies being brought out of one of the buildings behind Osanyitolu while he was speaking.
“There is a difference between being trapped and bodies being recovered. Operations are still ongoing and you can see that my team is working hard to curtail the fire.
“We have been able to rescue 25 victims and they are still alive and so far, we have recovered six bodies,” Osayintolu said.
While the LASEMA chairman was speaking to journalists, the corpses of a young man whom residents refer to as Oga Emma, his pregnant wife and a child were being removed in makeshift stretchers by rescue officials.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said 15 corpses, including a family of four, have been recovered from the scene of the explosion.
Mr Ibrahim Farinloye, Acting Coordinator of NEMA in Lagos, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the couple and their two sons were caught by the explosion on their way to church around about 9a.m. on Sunday.
“The resulting fire later spread to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) oil pipeline passing through the area even though the pipeline has been shutdown as a precautionary measure.
“The fire was eventually extinguished about 3.30p.m through the combined efforts of officials of the Lagos State Fire Service, Federal Fire Service and Nigerian Navy Fire Tender.”
Also, Rear Admiral Oladele Daji, Staff Officer, Western Naval Command, told newsmen that the students were stabilised at the Navy Hospital, adding that those who have fully recovered would be discharged soon.
Daji said although the cause of the incident was still unknown, some residents of the area told security operatives that there was a large number of industrial gas cylinders close to where the explosion occurred.
He said the Nigerian Navy in collaboration with other security agencies had begun clearing the pipeline right of way across Lagos State, adding that the government should revoke the Certificate of Occupancy of houses sited very close to pipelines.
Gas cylinders hit by a truck caused Lagos explosion -NNPC
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) says the explosion that rocked Lagos Sunday morning happened when a truck hit gas cylinders around the corporation’s pipeline right of way.
This is contrary to speculations of pipeline vandalism and even bombing as the cause.
Some boarding students were stranded and more than 50 houses were affected by the explosion that occurred in the Abule Ado area of Lagos.
Kennie Obateru, NNPC’s public affairs manager, said preliminary findings indicated that the impact of the explosion was so huge it led to the damage to an NNPC pipeline.
The cylinders were said to be stacked in a gas processing plant located near the corporation’s system 2B pipeline right of way.
Obateru said following the report of the explosion, the corporation quickly halted ongoing pumping operations on the Atlas Cove-Mosimi pipeline which was active at the time.
The NNPC’s spokesman however assured that the temporary shutdown of the petroleum products pipeline would not affect the normal supply of products to the Lagos and its environs.
He said NNPC had already mobilised its in-house combined team consisting of health safety environment experts, medical and security personnel from its nearby satellite depot in Lagos.
He said more fire firefighting personnel and equipment were also mobillised from the NNPC Mosimi area to provide extra fillip to the ongoing operation.
Priest died in a bid to save trapped students
A Catholic priest lost his life while making attempt to get students out of their dormitory at Bethlehem Girls High School.
Residents said they encountered difficulty trying to get the students out and the priest who had also come to lend a hand died in the process.
“He died trying to save the lives of those students,” one of the residents who gave his name simply as Delight said.
The identity of the priest has not been made known, but residents said he worshipped at a nearby Catholic church.
Explosion sad, unfortunate – Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari has described the Lagos explosion as sad and unfortunate.
In a statement by Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, Buhari condoled with the Lagos government and all residents affected by the unfortunate incident, which left many injured and destroyed property.
“I have received with sadness the news of this unfortunate incident which caused loss of lives and property.
“A misfortune of whatever scale anywhere is a tragedy to the country, and while the NNPC makes efforts to determine the cause of the incident, I send my deepest and profound sympathises to the victims, their families, government and people of Lagos State.”