*It was accidental discharge – Akeredolu
*I struggled out of rubble after church building went down — Survivor
By Dayo Johnson, Akure
13 persons including worshippers were yesterday injured while over 70 houses were damaged in an early hour explosion which rocked Akure, Ondo State capital, to its foundation.
The blast, which occurred at about 1am along Owo- Akure highway, few metres from the Akure Airport, cut off the road and formed crater that prevented vehicular movement to the northern part of the state.
Motorists had to make a detour through Ilu -Abo community to reconnect to the highway.
Dynamites used to blast rocks and for use in quarry were said to be in transit to Edo State from Oyo when the vehicle conveying them developed mechanical fault.
The fault reportedly emitted fire under the vehicle which later caused a spark and ignited the dynamites.
Mostly affected were a church housing over 18 structures and Aina Awwal Int’l School with no fewer than ten structures opposite the church.
But for the closure of schools and the ban on religious activities by the state government following the outbreak of COVID 19 pandemic, the casualty occasioned by the blast would have been better imagined.
The effect of the explosion was reportedly felt over 10 kilometres away from the scene of the blast.
Buildings mostly destroyed by the explosion include those at Aina Awwal International College which is a full boarding school and a popular church in Akure, “Possibility Prayer Ground for All Nation Church”.
Speaking with newsmen, the Principal of Aina Awwal International College, Roland Kayode, said: “ We thank God that no life was lost considering the impact of the blast. I received a call around 1:20am from security guards who said something had happened in the school and that all the buildings had collapsed but couldn’t explain what led to the collapse. He couldn’t explain very well because he was shivering and devastated.
“I had to rush down here and, on getting here and learnt that a vehicle was conveying some explosives and broke down opposite the school, nobody could ascertain where the vehicle was coming from.
“The security guard explained that he saw some men who parked their vehicle and that they opened the bonnet of the vehicle trying to fix the vehicle.
“He said he waved his searchlight at them but said the three men who were fixing the vehicle started to run for safety and met some policemen who were on the highway and told them about the situation while they all ran for safety and there was an explosion that led to all that we are seeing now.
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“Nearly all the buildings in the schools were destroyed. About seven structures were affected
“We have about 42 students but they have all vacated the school because of the issue of Coronavirus. Thank God for the government directives that all schools should closed down. It was only the security men that are around when the incident happened.
“Three of our security guards have slight injury and they have been rushed to the hospital and responding to treatment.
“ l don’t think I can quantify the extent of damage. It will be very close to N1billion. The least of the structure is more than N50m and we have other things inside the building like, all the classroom with interactive board, adjustable chairs, air conditioners, and others.
“ l want to appeal to both the state and federal government, whatever they think they can do to help this school and other places destroyed by the blast will be appreciated.
“They should come to our aid so that the school will not collapse. We need assistance from government so that the mission of the owner of the school will not be defeated, the school was established to build sons and daughters of these communities and the development is so unfortunate.
Also, the founder of the Church, Prophetess Olayemi Adesida who was in church when the incident happened said that the building collapsed on her while she struggled her way through the debris.
Prophetess Adesida said that ten members of the church were injured as a result of the blast adding that they are presently in the hospital.
She appealed to both the state and the Federal government to come to her assistance noting that the damages were monumental.
Speaking on the incident, the Commissioner of Police in the state, Undie Adie who confirmed that the explosion said that blast was caused by explosives meant for a quarry company.
Adie pointed out that the vehicle conveying the explosives which was on transit through the state developed mechanical problems before it finally exploded opposite the church and school buildings.
According to him “ the security operatives who were escorting the vehicle gave the red alert which made the truck driver and another person to jump out of the truck before it finally exploded.
The state CAN chairman John Ayo Oladapo who was at the scene said that the damages were “beyond description and a national disaster.
“ The destruction is massive, building destroyed beyond repair. We thank God that no life was lost which is paramount in this case.
Speaking, the state governor Rotimi Akeredolu who raced to the scene and his deputy Hon Agboola Ajayi said “ l have been briefed by the security chiefs that in the early hours of Saturday March 28th, a vehicle in a convoy transporting explosives to a storage facility in a neighbouring state developed a fault while in transit along the Akure Owo Road about 2km from the Akure Airport.
“Security personnel and other individuals transporting the ordinances noticed smoke from the vehicle.
“After several attempts to extinguish the resulting fire failed, the vehicle and its consignment ignited causing a massive explosion that was felt in Akure and its environs.
“Presently, efforts are being made to ascertain if there are casualties.
“ Following my visit to the scene, I have directed that the area be cordoned off to allow the explosive ordinance department/bomb squad to extricate the vehicle buried underground because it is unclear if there are still explosives that are yet to be detonated.
“Everything is under control and I will be updating the public on any new developments.
Also, a statement issued by the state information and Orientation commissioner Donald Ojogo which called for calm said that “ for now, no reports of casualties have been recorded; but the impact of the explosion has had a devastating effect on several buildings including schools and a Church.
“The Government of Ondo State wishes to appeal to all to be calm and refrain from flaunting theories that are capable of distracting the security agencies in their investigations.
“ ln the meantime, Governor Akeredolu advises people to be careful and take precautions not to rush to the scene.
“This, according to him, is pertinent because the blast, the scene and its immediate effects are already security concerns.
“This is more so that no one can confirm if undetonated devices are still stuck in unseen corners, especially in the gully already created by the blast.
“It is, therefore, in the public interest for people to allow security experts access to the area by de-populating the scene. Security agencies will keep the public informed of developments as they unfold.
Ojogo added that “ Owing to the road that has been cut-off, an alternative route will be worked on immediately for commuters plying the route.