By Chimaobi Nwaiwu
Nnewi—TEARS flowed freely, yesterday, as relations of victims of last Sunday’s petrol tanker fire incident in Onitsha, which claimed 69 lives, besieged hospitals where the victims were taken.
As early as 6a.m. yesterday, hundreds of people living in Onitsha, Asaba and environs thronged the scene of the accident and Toronto Hospital, Onitsha, the nearest hospital to the scene of the incident, and other hospitals where surviving victims were admitted.
Meanwhile, one more person was confirmed dead yeaterday, bringing the total number of victims to 70.
Confirming the death of the latest victim, simply identified as Ajee, a driver admitted in Toronto Hospital, Chairman of Anambra State branch of Nigerian Red Cross Society, NRSC, Professor Peter Emeka-Katchy, said no other death, aside from that of Ajee, had been recorded in any of the hospital the wounded victims were taken to.
He said: “Right now, I am leaving the scene of the accident at Upper Iweka after visiting Toronto and General Hospital, Onitsha, for St. Charles Boromeo Hospital for forensic tests on the victims.
“You know that if we do not get that test, it will be difficult to identify the corpses and that means if we do not succeed, it will be mass burial for the victims.
“There is no truth that 48 more people have died as a result of the accident.”
Vanguard investigations revealed that it was the mortuary attendants at some of the hospitals visited that gave the information that 48 more victims had died.
Anambra State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Uche Eze, could not confirm the purported 48 deaths and all efforts to get him to speak proved abortive.
When Vanguard visited the hospitals, hundreds of people surged to see what happened as well as the remains of the victims involved.
The Chief Medical Director of Toronto Hospital, Onitsha, Dr Emeka Eze, told Vanguard that those admitted in the hospital were in stable condition, adding that the hospital had been able to cope with the large number of the victims and had all the necessary medications and equipment meant to attend to them.
“As you can see, they are in good and stable condition. We have been putting in our best and one good thing working for us is that the hospital got the necessary medication and equipment to attend to emergencies such as this,” he said.
In Onitsha General Hospital, a chief matron, who spoke on condition of anonymity, noted that those admitted in the emergency and accident unit of the hospital had been transferred to Anambra State University Teaching Hospital, Amaku, Awka, the state capital.
“Those alive but wounded had been transferred as early as 5 a.m. to Amaku Teaching Hospital,’’ she said.
In Borrowmeo Mission Hospital, Onitsha; the security in the hospital restricted movement of people, who came to sympathise with the victims, as most people throng the entrance of the hospital.
At Toronto Hospital and Onitsha General Hospital mortuaries, some of the corpses of the victim were seen piled up at the backyard of the two hospitals, waiting for identification by relatives and possible mass burial.
Vanguard counted over 30 corpses dumped at the backyard of the two hospitals, while tears flowed freely on the part of on-lookers, friends and relatives of those who died in the accident.
However, a bus conductor, Mr Innocent Obioma, who was among those lamenting, said his master was affected while he run to assist those in the vehicles the tanker fell on initially.
“As Oga Okoli jumped out of our bus and attempted to help a woman with a baby in a bus, the tanker exploded and everybody within the circumference, including Oga Okoli, got burnt instantly,’’ he said.