By Esther Onyegbula
An unidentified pregnant woman and a driver were burnt beyond recognition yesterday, after a truck loaded with 33,000 litres of petroleum product exploded at Barracks Bus Stop, along the Lagos-Badagry Expressway.
The fate of another female victim, who sustained severe burns from the resultant fire, still hung in the balance, as doctors at a private hospital around Onireke, were battling to resuscitate her alongside six other victims, who sustained varying degrees of burns.
Also destroyed were six vehicles and goods worth several millions of naira.
The incident occurred at about 4a.m., after the truck which was heading inward Iyana-Oba, somersaulted while trying to navigate a failed portion of the expressway at Barracks Bus Stop, spilling its content on the on the road and igniting.
The fire affected vehicles that were behind the truck. Among the affected vehicles was a truck conveying power generating sets.
The pregnant woman, a trader, Vanguard gathered, was in a cab loaded with cartoons of frozen fish. She was burnt alongside the driver.
Victims’ attempt to escape
Eyewitnesses said some motorists, who were on fire, put up spirited efforts to stay alive as they kept running, looking for flood water to plunge into.
An eyewitness, who simply gave his name as Mr. Mmaduabuchukwu Onyesi, said the rain could not stop the rampaging inferno.
He said one of the victims that were on fire fell inside flood water, which unknown to him was filled with the combustible substance.
He said: “The fire on her increased. But she still managed to get up and ran until she became weak and laid on the ground. By then, another driver, who had fire extinguisher in his car, rushed to where she was and sprayed it on her. Though the fire went out, she was unconscious.”
The accident brought traffic on the ever-busy expressway to a halt, forcing commuters to come down from public vehicles and trek across the scene of the accident to continue their journey.
When Vanguard visited the scene, rescue operators had condoned off the route. Among them were fire service officials, as well as those from Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA; Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA; military personnel from Ojo Barracks and Policemen.
Some persons, who claimed to be relatives of those burnt, were sighted at the scene. They demanded to take the charred remains for burial according to Islamic rites, but refused to speak with Vanguard when approached.
Speaking with Vanguard, Head of Operations of the Lagos State Fire Service, Ojo Station, Mrs. Bolanle Kasumu, said: “I don’t know how it happened. I received a call from the DPO in charge of Onireke by 4:30a.m., that there was a fire outbreak and within five minutes, my men and I were at the scene.
“The inferno was still raging. But we have been able to bring it under control so that it doesn’t spread to residential buildings. We have been working here since 4:35a.m.
“When we got here the tanker and other vehicles were in flames and the container was also burning. It was like the tanker driver was trying to manoeuvre, but owing to the situation of the road, it fell.”
Also, Assistant Commandant, Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, Iba Unit, Joe Ogar, said: “Two lives were lost, six vehicles were burned and property worth millions destroyed in the fire.
“As you can see the situation is already under control, but from what we gathered the fire started after a tanker carrying PMS fell, spilling it contents.
“My men, alongside personnel of other traffic agencies, got to work immediately we arrived the scene. The other victim has been taken to Onireke Hospital behind the Police Station.
…blame on govt
Residents said a similar incident occurred recently at same spot. But in that case, no life was lost. A truck loaded with petroleum product heading inward Badagry, fell, spilling its contents.
Although no life was lost but motorists and commercial motorcyclists were prevented from taking the route in order to avoid the situation from escalating.
Motorists spent several hours on the road as they were prevented from moving on both sides of the expressway.
One angry resident, Mr. Mojeed Saliu, blamed the situation on what he described as insensitivity of government.
He said: “The two incidents on this particular spot were caused by bad road. Must people die before government rises to its responsibility?
“Ordinarily, people go through hell daily, owing to the perennial gridlock as a result of this failed section of the road.
“In fact, we have resorted to taking motorbikes, which is twice the normal price. Government should come to our aid before this spot consumes more people.”