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Caught in balls of fire, we nearly burnt to ashes!

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•Agonies of survivors of explosions from kerosene adulterated with petrol

By Emmanuel Unah, Calabar    

Kerosene explosions in parts of Cross River State are wreaking havoc, causing deaths and leaving people with severe burns. Worst hit is Calabar, the state capital, where no fewer than five persons have been killed in explosions linked to adulterated kerosene. Those who suffered severe burns are lying critically ill at the General Hospital, Calabar and the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital where doctors are battling to save their lives.

Hardly does a week pass without two or more cases of explosions in parts of the state caused by adulterated kerosene reported. Nine of the survivors are receiving treatment at the General Hospital Calabar while four are at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital.

Ogolo Eke, a student of the Cross River State University of Technology was not as lucky as the survivors. She died in a private hospital where she had been rushed to after she suffered severe burns on her chest and face during one of such cases of explosions. The twenty one year old died only weeks after she had matriculated to read microbiology in the university.

The explosions, according to the survivors and relatives of those who died, occurred while victims were trying to refill their lamps or cooking stoves with kerosene without putting out the fire.

In one tragic incident, a family of four died from an explosion linked to kerosene adulteration at 124, Murtala Muhammed Highway, Ikot Omin in 8 Miles area of Calabar. The victims, Mrs Nseobong Uduak, mother, Miracle, 10, Silas, 3 and a two-month-old baby, whose name could not be ascertained, were seriously burnt, leading to their death.

The two-bedroom apartment, where the victims lived, was also razed and property worth millions of naira destroyed. An eyewitness, who gave her name as Rachel Akpan, blamed the incident on adulterated kerosene which, she said, exploded as one of the deceased children, Miracle, was about refilling the lantern with the product.

In another incident, Emane Eze, a housewife, whose family also lives at 8 Miles, narrated to our reporter how she bought kerosene from a fuel station and had been using it until last Sunday, at about 5.00 am, when her husband, Michael Eze, tried to light the lantern in the parlour of their apartment and an explosion occurred.

“I used the kerosene last in February to cook beans but, at about 5 am last Sunday, the kerosene in our lantern went low and my husband was trying to refill it when an explosion occurred and he was caught in a ball of fire.” The husband was rushed to an hospital where he is receiving treatment for severe burns.

Another victim, a lady, who gave her name as Precious, had severe burns all over her body and was lying on one of the beds at the female ward of the General Hospital, Calabar.

According to her, her lantern was about to go off in the night and she tried to refill it when suddenly there was an explosion and her whole body was engulfed in fire.

“I tried to put out the fire but the more I tried the more the fire increased; so I shouted for help and neighbours came in and dragged me out of the house. Had neighbours not helped, I would have burnt to ashes”, the survivor said.

She said the kerosene was bought from a shop along the street she lives at Calabar South, saying she had heard cases similar to hers in the neighbourhood.

Another victim, Rose, whose bed was opposite Precious’, said she was trying to refill her stove while boiling water for her children to bath before going to school when the stove exploded and she was caught in a resultant ball of fire.

She narrated that but for the timely intervention of neighbours, she would have been burnt to ashes. The fire burnt her face, breast region and belly.

An elderly woman, brought in from Akamkpa, was unconscious when Sunday Vanguard visited but occasionally she would open her eyes and close them again.

In the children’s ward of the hospital was Michael, a 10-year-old victim, who could not talk because of the intensity of his pains.

Lying on a bed facing Michael was another kid, Goodluck, who said the lantern he was trying to light exploded, burning him severely in his Anineje village and he had been in the hospital after he was rushed there in the past three weeks.

His two legs were covered in plaster of Paris but he claimed that his injuries were healing gradually.

Mr Donatus Ugbe, the Director of the Cross River State Fire Service, said the explosions were attributable to adulteration of kerosene with petrol which has become cheaper.

“A litre of petrol sells for N145 while kerosene sells for N250; so it is easy for unscrupulous marketers seeking to make large profits to mix kerosene with petrol and sell to unsuspecting members of the public”, Ugbe said.

Cross State Commissioner for Health, Inyang Asibong, and the Director General of the state Primary Health Care Development Agency, Betta Edu,   who visited the victims, called on the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, to look into adulteration of petroleum products particularly kerosene with a view to stopping explosions . They assured that government would pay the medical bills of the victims and take those critically affected to tertiary medical institutions for intensive care treatment.



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