By JIMITOTA ONOYUME, Port Harcourt
EXPLOSIONS yesterday rocked a section of Port Harcourt killing no fewer than nine persons. The incident which happened at about 915am at the former PW jetty, Abuloma area of the State occurred in a vessel.
Eye witnesses who spoke to Saturday Vanguard at the scene of the incident said a welding work was going on in the ocean liner which was carrying a large quantity of crude when suddenly it exploded three times.
Nobody could confirm the death toll from the bang but sources said several persons were still trapped in the smouldering fire from the vessel at the time Saturday Vanguard visited. “Several persons are still trapped in the burning vessel. Some said they are ten, others put the figure at thirty. But all we know is that some persons have burnt to death in the vessel”, a marine worker said at the scene.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that the captain of the vessel and one of his deck hands were among five persons that were rushed to the hospital.
Confirming the incident, Spokesman of Sector II of the Joint Task Force, Operation Pulo Shield in the state, Captain Samuel Sunday said the vessel exploded in the morning hours, adding that he had little details on the incident.
Meantime, neighbourhood sources said those that were trapped in the fire included some commercial workers that had stormed the vessel to “dish out service” to those in the cabin. They said the vessel had three cabins and was conveying crude out of the state.
Effort by fire fighters to extinguish the raging fire on the vessel was helpless as their hoses could not extend to the vessel which was at the shore end of the jetty. “The fire fighters from the government only came here on sight scene. They could not do anything because their hoses could not get to the spot where the vessel is burning”.
Also the Sector II of the Joint Task Force, Operation Pulo Shield said it set fire on five petrol tankers conveying illegal crude at Eneka area of the state. Spokesman of the security body, Captain Sunday said no life was lost in the operation, adding that six persons were arrested over the issue.
In a related development, seven offices in the administration area of the Rivers state owned newspaper, The Tide were razed down in an early morning inferno. The state government was yet to issue a release on the incident at press time but workers were seen milling around the office premises discussing the development in groups.