By Chioma Onuegbu
Uyo—No fewer than two persons lost their lives, while over 10 others sustained serious injuries in a gas explosion that occurred on Afaha Uqua Road in Eket Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
Vanguard gathered that a staff of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, died from the explosion, while the second staff is receiving treatment at Anua Hospital in Uyo.
An eyewitness said the incident occurred at 10a.m., Monday, due to gas leakage from a cylinder, which fell from a gas shop and caught fire from the restaurant nearby.
It was gathered that but for the quick intervention of the fire service, the gas leakage would have extended to nearby buildings and another gas shop about five building away.
Ating Wilson, an NDLEA officer in the Eket Area Command, said he was supposed to go with the two officers, adding that “when I went to check them, I discovered that they had already left.”
He explained that he was going to eat when another colleague, Esther, ran to him and said there was a gas explosion, where Ebere Okoye and the other man were badly burnt.
He said they took both to the hospital, but that two hospitals refused to treat the other man. The man later died at Anua Hospital yesterday.
The NDLEA state commander, Mrs. Ruth Obi, said it was shocking when she received the news, saying she earlier thought it was a small fire from the kitchen of the restaurant where the officer went to eat, not knowing that it was a gas explosion.
Obi said that they were initially afraid for the other officer, Ebere, who is now receiving treatment, because since the incident happened on Monday, doctors were unable to locate a vein to put drip in her until yesterday.
She expressed surprise that a gas shop could be located close to restaurants, whereas in other places gas shops were usually tagged “No Smoking.”
Ebere Okoye, who hails from Anambra State, was transferred last October from Ogun State command of the NDLEA to Akwa Ibom State Command. She, alongside three other victims of the explosion, including a male hairdresser, are currently receiving medical treatment at St Josephs Anua Hospital.
Narrating her ordeal from her hospital bed, Ebere said: “It happened on Monday when I went to a restaurant on Afaha Uqua Road in Eket to eat. “I had finished eating and was on my way out of the place when I noticed a tall gas cylinder falling from a gas shop, which is about five shops away from the restaurant where I ate. All of a sudden I noticed that fire caught my cloth from behind.
“I started running and shouting that people should come to my help, but nobody responded because they were also afraid of the gas explosion. “I decided to cross over to the other side of the road and entered into one compound to see if I could get help, but nobody helped me. Then I tore my cloth from the back where fire caught it, and then I begged one boy in the compound to pick my phone from the floor and call my office, but he refused.
“Then I ran out to the road and tried to stop a bike, but they refused to stop. Luckily, one stopped and took me to my office to tell them what had happened. “Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, officers came and took me to the hospital in Eket. I cannot remember the name of the hospital I was rushed to in Eket because then I was still unconscious.
“I heard that the colleague I went out together to eat was affected. He said he wanted to eat swallow, so he went to another shop very close to the gas shop to eat. “When I got to the office, I told other officers what happened and they decided to go in search of him. I am thanking God because I am alive.”
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Dickson Edet, said the signal from the Police division in Eket, Tuesday, confirmed that two persons died from the explosion. Surprisingly, it was observed that most of the shops at the affected building were destroyed except the gas shop.