By Kolade Larewaju, Tony Nyong & Ifeanyi Okolie
LAGOS—IT was a harvest of deaths yesterday in Lagos, Ogun and Akwa Ibom states as no fewer than 30 persons were burnt to death in auto accidents involving petrol tankers.
In Lagos, more than 20 people were burnt in their vehicles around Alakija area of Mile 2 on the Lagos-Badagry expressway when an oil tanker fell and spilled its contents on the Lagos-Badagry expressway.
Four vehicles, including two commuter buses carrying more than 24 passengers and two private cars, were burnt. One of the private vehicles, a Nissan car had a pregnant woman and her husband burnt to death.
Others suffered serious injuries while those who attempted to escape fell into a canal and died.
The incident was said to have happened at 5.52 a.m. when the driver of the ill_fated tanker ran into a deep ditch along the road. He was said to be trying to avoid an approaching car that attempted a dangerous overtaking before crashing against a culvert. Thereafter, it exploded into a large ball of fire consuming all other approaching vehicles within reach.
An eyewitness, Kolawole Bashiru, a roadside vulcanizer, told Vanguard that the driver of the tanker who could not be identified made efforts to notify approaching vehicles when he saw danger looming, but that they ignored him and headed straight into the inferno.
He said: “ I was watching from my stand, and the day was still very dark when it happened. When the driver ran into that very big ditch beside the road, he saw fuel gushing out from his tanker and it was very dangerous. I heard him shouting for approaching vehicles to stop and not move any closer, but they did not listen.
“You know Lagosians, they held on, and after two vehicles moved past we heard a deafening explosion, followed by a large ball of fire.
It attracted a frightening view and people started screaming painfully. Some occupants of razing vehicles scampered into the nearby bush for safety. I and other sympathizers could not get closer because the fire was too much.
It went on all like that until the fire fighters and policemen arrived at about 6.30 a.m. They put off the fires from all the burning vehicles and they also removed the corpses and the injured persons away.”
The incident caused a stampede and people were running in all directions to escape being caught in the fire. The incident caused traffic gridlock along the Mile 2 and Iba roads for more the four hours. It took the intervention of firemen from FESTAC fire station to put the inferno under control.
The Area Commander of LASTMA, Mr. Taiwo Abayomi, who narrated the incident to newsmen said when he and his men got to the scene, many lives had been lost and several people injured.
He added that it took the combined effort of the police, LASTMA, civil defence corps and FRSC to put the situation under control. Some victims of the accident were taken to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH and when relations and sympathisers visited the hospital they could not hold themselves as they started crying and wailing.
Two of the victims were said to have been burnt beyond recognition and were dumped at the entrance of the mortuary.
Five perish at Ijebu Ode crash
Meanwhile at Ijebu-Ode end of the Lagos_Ore Expressway, no fewer than five persons perished in another auto crash involving an Opel Astra car marked OGUN AL 532 JBD and an articulated vehicle, with registration EDO SA 929BEN, said to be conveying rice from Lagos.
Vanguard gathered that the accident occurred at about 8:30a.m, about 40 metres away from the Odogbolu junction.
The driver of the car was said to have lost control and rammed into the truck from the rear resulting in the death of the driver and occupants of the car on the spot. It took the effort of the members of the Ogun State Traffic Control unit to pull the dead bodies out of the mangled car.
The Ijebu Sector Commander, Traffic Compliance and Enforcement Corps (TRACE), Ogun State, Mr. Ajibade Adekunle, who identified the cause of the accident as over speeding and recklessness on the part of the driver said the remains of the driver of the car was deposited at the morgue of the state hospital, Ijebu Ode while the four other bodies were kept in the morgue of Rona hospital, also in Ijebu Ode.
Seven murdered in Uyo
In Uyo, an Inspector of Police, a soldier, and six persons were murdered at two separate locations in the state capital, as a mobile policeman and a soldier were left in very critical conditions during the gun duels.
The inferno involving a tanker occurred in the morning, and the clash with the bandits, according to eyewitness happened at about 7.30pm, while the police officer, who died and two security operatives now injured were attacked at a road block along Oron Road. The hoodlums and three of the civilians were killed close to the C’ Division of the Nigerian Police along Aka-Etinan Road just few poles from the state Police Headquarters.
Unconfirmed report alleged that the gunmen that stormed the state in two vehicles, Benz 190 and Kia were on a mission to set free their members who were detained at the State Police headquarters, Ikot Akpan-Abia but were stampeded by security operatives, who engaged them in gun battle for more than two hours.