•Auto dealer who lost 20 cars worth N100m says, I’m finished
By Job Osazuwa and Bianca Iboma
A tanker laden with 33,000 litres of diesel yesterday unleashed huge losses on some residents of Festac Town in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State.
The accident, which occurred around noon, did not claim any life. But one man was injured while 21 vehicles and five motorcycles were razed.
An eyewitness, Mr. Chukwudi Ibe, said the fuel tanker was trying to cross the Festac Link Bridge when the truck rolled back. An explosion subsequently occurred, causing panic in the area as people scampered in different directions.
He said youths in the area mobilised to prevent the fire from causing more damage, as they pushed many parked vehicles away from the scene of the incident; they also used buckets of water in their bid to put out the raging fire.
According to the witness, federal and Lagos State emergency officials arrived at the scene 40 minutes after the fire started, and the damage had been done before their arrival.
One of the victims, Mr. Chinedu Nwobo, a car dealer, was struck with the heaviest losses. He said the 18 vehicles on display were completely burnt.
“The tanker driver has finished me completely. How and where do I start from after this? I never expected this would happen to me at this time of the year,” he lamented.
He said the cost of the razed vehicles was about N100 million.
Nwobo said he was sitting in front of his office when he saw the tanker driver finding it difficult to climb the bridge, and he suspected the driver wasn’t experienced enough.
“A few minutes later, we heard an explosion and cars started reversing. There was pandemonium.
“I blame the government for the loss of my property. If they had done what they were supposed to do it would not have happened. My 17 cars and a truck got burnt. Until the new local government officials assumed office, no heavy-duty truck was allowed to pass through the residential areas. The bridge in question is not meant for heavy-duty trucks.
“The fire servicemen wasted so much time in responding to the fire. When they arrived, there was no water in the first vehicle that came. Also, when other vehicles arrived, their equipment was in bad condition because it took them longer time to set them up.
“I have lost almost N100 million. I am in real shock right now and cannot accept the situation. I can’t be responsible for the unfortunate loss. I am appealing to the government to come to my aid; everybody knows how difficult it has been after going through so much to get to this point. How can one cope with this immense loss of property?” he wondered.
Other residents in the area also recorded losses. Mr. Charles, who deals in travelling bags close to the scene, said he lost over N1 million to the fire disaster. Another businessman who was driving behind the ill-fated tanker said he lost goods worth N1.5 million besides his vehicle.
But the general manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Mr. Adesina Tiamiyu, said the agency’s response team moved to the scene as soon as it received a distress call concerning the incident.
“The combined efforts of the emergency responders, the police, Lagos State fire Service, Federal Fire Service and Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps was able to put the fire out at 2:20pm.
“The inferno of the exploded tanker affected 21 vehicles (18 cars and three commuter buses) and five motorcycles,” Tiamiyu said.
The agency’s rescue/recovery equipment was seen evacuating the burnt vehicles from the scene. Policemen from the Festac Police Division were also on hand to prevent hoodlums from unleashing mayhem and to manage the massive crowd at the scene.
The accident caused a gridlock around Festac and its environs for many hours.
Chairman of the local government council, Mr. Valentine Buraimoh, expressed shock at the incident. He condemned the removal of barricades that once protected the bridge, adding that the government had already enacted a law that prohibits heavy-duty trucks from passing residential areas.
The council boss said immediately the news broke out, he swung into action by informing the relevant authorities to do the needful about the incident.