Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
At least three people, including a mother and child, were burnt to death in a fuel tanker inferno in Onitsha, Anambra State.
Parts of Ochanja Market stores were also burnt, in addition to about 6 residential houses, including three 4-storey homes and some vehicles.
Daily Sun learnt that the fuel tanker laden with substance suspected to be Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) lost control and fell inside the drainage channel at MCC bus stop near Toronto Hospital, Upper-Iweka, Onitsha.
The tanker’s head had dislodged from the body and continued in motion until stopped at the Upper Iweka fly over. A few minutes later, the tanker exploded, spilling and igniting its content over the drainage system.
As the fuel flowed onto the drainage channels, the fire continued raging and burning many houses along Iweka road before the fire spread to parts of Ochanja Market.
A woman and her child lost their lives as they were attempting to jump the large gutter at Ochanja Market First Gate. They fell inside the gutter and were burnt beyond recognition.
Another victim, a man, went back to his shop at Ochanja by Zik Avenud, purportedly to retrieve money. He was however trapped by the flames, and was burned to death.
The fire was still raging at Ochanja Market at the time of this report, leading to the shutdown of nearby commercial banks with the spreading close to buildings at the Market junction.
Although there was the presence of police officers at the scene, they were helpless to stop the inferno due to a lack of fire fighting equipment and the absence emergency fire fighters, they told Daily Sun.
The only fire fighting vehicle on site had come from Asaba in Delta State one hour after the fire started. It was sent back by angry youths who threatened to burn down the vehicle. They blamed the Anambra State Government for the tragedy by not deploying fire fighting equipment to the disaster area.
An eewitness, Mr Okoye Nneji, said that witnesses saw fire spreading through the drainage channels, causing nearby motorists, traders and passersby to run and take cover. He blamed the spread of the fire to the lack of fire extinguishers and emergency response equipment.
He speculates that many people may still be trapped inside their shops at Ochanja, stressing that it would not be possible to acertain the number of causalities until Thursday.
“How can a tanker that fell down close to MCC bus stop at Upper Iweka spill over fire for about one kilometer to Ochanja Market without any fire fighting vehicle coming to put out the fire until the whole damage was done, lives wasted, property lost,” he asked.
“We don’t have government in this state. What we have here is rubber stamped government which doesn’t take the plight of the people to heart. Are we supposed to wait till disasters like this occur before the government provides fire fighting equipment to strategic places like Upper Iweka and major markets?
“This is not the first time a similar accident would occur at Upper Iweka,” the eyewitness said, “but our government doesn’t learn from it…”