By Evelyn Usman & Suliat Elemosho
LAGOS—A tanker, loaded with 33,000 litres of diesel, exploded yesterday at Festac Link Bridge in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos, with 21 vehicles and five motorcycles burnt in the resultant inferno.
A man identified simply as Ifeanyi, who attempted to contain the spread of the fire before the arrival of fire service men, escaped death by the whiskers, while motorists and passers-by sustained minor injuries in the ensuing melee.
The truck driver, whose identity could not be immediately ascertained, was on his way to off- load the content at a filling station in Festac Town, when the truck fell while ascending the bridge, spilling its contents, prompting other vehicles behind it to stop abruptly.
It was gathered that concerned motorists, who came out of their vehicles to proffer an immediate solution that would prevent an outbreak of fire, were taken aback by an explosion.
Motorists hurriedly made U-turns, but some were forced to abandon their vehicles.
An eyewitness, who simply gave his name as Ifeanyi, disclosed that the fire started when a commercial bus that was behind the tanker started his vehicle engine.
‘How I escaped death’
Ifeanyi narrated his near-death experience: “When the tanker fell, there was no fire immediately. Everyone was trying to make way for the tanker and so a commercial bus driver started his vehicle and the exhaust sparked up a fire, which ignited the spilled content.
“Even at that point, I tried to put out the fire and at the same time, tried to call on the street boys to join me. The first fire men that came brought only one tank of water.
“In the bid to stop the fire from spreading, a fire extinguisher was directed at me. It choked me and I passed out, only to wake up in the hospital where I was dumped.
“As I made to leave, I was asked to pay for the treatment. I had to part with the only N3,000 on me. I approached government officials at the scene and was told to go to the local government. Only God knows what would have happened if I had died?”
The fire, which spread to a car mart by the bridge, razed several vehicles that were displayed for sale. Although eyewitnesses said over 30 vehicles were affected, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, said 21 vehicles, comprising 18 cars and three commercial buses, were burnt.
The agency added that five commercial motorcycles were also affected.
Another eyewitness, Lekan Durosimi, told Vanguard that the number would have been more had some owners of cars displayed for sale not driven them away.
According to Durosimi, “immediately the truck fell, owners of some Tokubo cars around hurriedly moved them away to avoid any likely disaster.
“As I speak, no one can identify the driver of the truck and we don’t even know the number plates because it was burnt beyond recognition.
“Some Okada riders also abandoned their bikes. One of them was carrying a pregnant woman when the incident happened. The pregnant woman hurriedly came down and advised the okada man to roll his bike back, but he did not listen to the advice until the fire started.”
It took the combined efforts of rescue operators from the Lagos and Federal Fire Service, LASEMA, Lagos State Ambulance Service, LASAMBUS and policemen from Area ‘E’ Command to put out the raging fire, after battling with it for hours.
The General Manager of LASEMA, Mr. Adesina Tiamiyu, explained that “a distress call was passed to the LASEMA Response Team today (yesterday) concerning a tanker on fire at Festac Link Bridge.
“On arrival at the scene at about 12:45p.m., it was revealed that a tanker loaded with 33,000 litres diesel, detached from its truck, fell and later exploded due to the ignition of a commuter bus.
“However, no life was lost, but one adult male sustained minor injury.
“The combined effort of the emergency responders was able to put the fire out at 2:20p.m. The inferno affected 21 cars and five motor bikes.
“The agency’s rescue/recovery equipment is on ground to ensure the burnt vehicles are taken off the road and to restore normalcy. Investigations will be conducted on the incident.”