By Evelyn Usman
A tanker loaded with combustive substance exploded at the early hours of yesterday, at Mile 2, along the Oshodi/Apapa Expressway, destroying at least 10 vehicles in the resultant inferno.
Several persons sustained varying degrees of burns and injuries in the ensuing stampede, while goods worth several millions of naira were also destroyed by fire.
This happened the same day Vanguard published pictures of the bad portions and the resultant gridlock along the ever-busy expressway, to draw the Federal and State governments attention to it.
Vanguard learned that the affected truck which loaded the substance from one of the tank farms along the expressway was heading outward Apapa. However, on reaching a failed section of the road at Fagbems bus-stop, Mile-2, the tanker overturned, spilled its content and went up in flames.
The loud bang rattled some drivers who were sleeping in their trucks, awaiting the right time to hit the road. They scampered in different directions for safety.
Unfortunately for drivers of other trucks behind, they could not manoeuvre their ways because of the failed section. They abandoned their trucks and managed to flee for dear life.
The raging fire also affected some trucks that were on the other side of the road, waiting for their turn to drive into the ports.
When Vanguard arrived at the scene, most motorists blamed the incident on what they described as insensitivity of government, to the plight of the masses who risk their lives daily on that route.
The failed section (outward Apapa) has been hampering the free flow of movement outward Apapa for close to three months. It was also observed that vehicles coming into Apapa, drove against traffic, from the Cele end, in a bid to escape a worse situation at the Berger yard and Berger Suya ends( inward Apapa). However, on reaching Fagbems bus-stop, motorists would be trapped, as they attempted to struggle to access the narrow path on the failed section with those driving outward Apapa.
For a month now, commercial vehicles from the Oshodi end, stopped at Fagbems, instead of Mile –Two Oke or Berger Suya ( because of the failed section), to pick passengers who have to trek a long distance to get there.
One of the truck drivers who gave his name simply as Musa, explained how he narrowly escaped being caught in the raging fire. He said “ My truck was the fourth on the queue. I was waiting for those in front to pass the failed section when I saw one of them fell. When the fire started, it caught the truck that was beside the affected one. The driver of another truck loaded with stationeries that was heading for Kaduna, attempted to drive into LACASERA company, only for the fire to spread to it. The driver and motor boy had to jump down, while the whole goods were burnt. Another truck loaded with beverages was also razed by fire.
“I tried as much as I could to reverse when I saw the fire because my truck was also loaded with petroleum products and I didn’t want it to explode. But there were other vehicles behind me. At that point, the fire had spread to the front of my truck. The only alternative I had was to jump out.
“ People made calls to the fire service stations but they came around 3 am. It was some firemen from LACASERA Company that helped put out the fire. If they were not there, it would have been more catastrophe. Those that were injured were rushed to the hospital”.
On his part, Mr Saliu Mukaila, who had gone to pick two vehicles that were cleared from the Ports yesterday, said he spent seven hours to get to Mile two from First Gate, only to be trapped for another 13 hours because of the incident.
Hear him: “Surviving in Nigeria is a big task. Can you imagine I have spent 19 hours on this road since yesterday, all because the government failed to fix the bad portions on the axis? When will all this end? Governments are insensitive to the plight of the commoners. Will lives perish here before something urgent is done? This road should have been fixed a long time ago, considering the importance of this axis.
Rescue operators such as the Police, Federal and Lagos State Fire Services, the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEM and agency responders were still at the scene at about 1 pm, trying to clear the wreckage to allow motorists that were trapped for hours, passage.
Director-General /Chief Executive Officer LASEMA, Dr Olufemi Oke-Osayintolu, explained that “ the Agency received distress calls concerning the fire which occurred around 1 am and activated its emergency response plan.
“On arrival, it was discovered that a fuel tanker loaded with PMS had overturned and burst into flames due to the oil spillage. This in turn affected some stationary trailers parked inwards Apapa. The operation to remove the affected vehicles is ongoing while road users are encouraged to use alternative routes”.