*Gridlock paralyses vehicular movements around Ikeja, environs
*Victims, eyewitnesses lament, recount experiences
*Govt, tanker union react
By Olasunkanmi Akoni and Bose Adelaja
At least five unidentified bodies have were recovered from the debris of
a full loaded Liquefied Petroleum Gas, LPG tanker which suddenly exploded around midnight on Thursday, at Maryland, inward Ikeja, along Mobolaji Bank-Anthony Way area of the state with several vehicles, running into millions of naira burnt to ashes in the process.
Several others also sustained different degree of burns, while others suffered various bodily injuries.
According to an eyewitness, the inferno which occured around 11.45 pm midnight at Ikeja, infront of Sheraton and Opic plaza, was later put out by men of the Lagos- State Fire Rescue Services and men of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, Nigerian Police and other emergency responders.
It was gathered that those who suffered burns were rushed to Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, Ikeja, for treatment.
Consequently, thousands of onlookers and sympathisers thronged the scene of the tragedy as rescue workers battled to bring the situation under control.
The attendant gridlock worsened as security agents and rescue team cordoned off the road to enable unhindered rescue operations.
Motorists and other road users were also trapped in terrible gridlock which extended into the ever busy Ikorodu Road, Gbagada end of the road, Ikeja G.R.A, among others.
One of the eyewitnesses told Vanguard that the incident occurred at exactly, 11.45 pm, Thursday, when the gas tanker who was on speed suddenly exploded into ball of fire, spreading quickly to buildings around.
“Those, who were caught in the inferno were screaming, help, help, but no one could respond at that particular time as everyone scampered to safety
How midnight gas tanker explosion wreaked havoc, victims, eyewitnesses recount
Different accounts of how the tragedy occurred and figures of casualties emerged as eyewitnesses put possible deaths to be 12 persons, however, no evidence to the claim.
According to the Acting Coordinator NEMA, Lagos State, Ibrahim Farinloye, five deaths were recorded in all.
He said three bodies were initially recovered while two of those rescued and taken to the hospital died few minutes later, putting the total deaths at five, while 13 persons were rescued alive.
According to Director General, LASEMA, Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, “On arrival of the Tiger officials at scene of the incident, it was discovered that a Liquefied Petroleum Gas, LPG, tanker was on fire as a result of explosion while the gas tanker was moving inward ikeja.
“The victims, who suffered varying degree of burns from the gas explosion were consequently taken to Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH and Gbagada General Hospital Burns and Trauma Centre for treatment. “They are responding to treatment, while five persons lost their lives.”
Also, the Director, Lagos State Fire and Rescue Service, Mrs Adeseye Margaret said the unfortunate incident which was reported at about 2235 hours on Thursday, was promptly are attended to by the firemen.
According to her: “A distress call was received from Opic Plaza, 28/30 Mobokaji Bank Anthony Way, Ikeja that a Gas Truck heading towards Ikeja reportedly exploded from a leakage which travelled through atmospheric conditions to meet an ignition point on the ground floor of the OPIC Plaza which houses a restaurant among other outlets resulting to Fire Outbreak.”
Adeseye added that three fire engines and crew were promptly detailed to rescue the situation and they completely put out the fire at the incident scene.
She further explained that on arrival at the scene of the incident, the Firefighters discovered that not less than 25 vehicles of various brands including the gas truck and the rear section of the plaza building was extensivly damaged by the resultant inferno.
She however, concluded that firefighting operations was concluded at 3 am Friday, as comprehensive post Fire disaster investigation and assessment has begun in earnest.
Victims, eyewitnesses recount
However, an eye witness account said it took the Lagos State Fire and Rescue Services over two hours to respond to the emergency calls by residents.
A resident Mrs Adetayo Kasali, said several calls made to Lagos State Emergency numbers were unresponded to promptly.
A private guard Mr Tony Omahi, said he felt the heat of the fire as it spread towards his direction before he took to his heels for safety.
According to him, “That was my first experience of seeing how fast fire can travel. I ran as far as my leg could carry me until I noticed the arrival of law enforcement operatives. There was nothing anyone could do to salvage lives and properties”
A victim, Mr. Akande Erinle, who lost his vehicle to the inferno said he took to his heels when he noticed the rate at which the car was moving towards his direction.
“I was sleeping in my vehicle when I suddenly felt a hot breeze which arose me from sleep. Before. I could pull myself together, I saw the fire coming in my direction and I had no option than to run out of my car.
“At a point, I though it was an attack until I saw people scampering for safety at that hour of the night. I ran as far as Ayinke House for safety after which I started coming back.
“Surprisingly, I noticed that my vehicle has got burnt but I thank God that I am alive after all, when there is life, there is hope.”
An eye witness who simply identified himself as Azees, lamented late arrival of emergency responders to the scene of the incident.
“Police were the first responders at the scene but that was an hour after the incident happened, followed by the state fire service which arrived about two hours later.
“Many workers of the restaurant were trapped in the inferno and their shout for help attracted people like us who rushed to the scene to rescue them. Unfortunately, we could not do much because of thick chocking smoke.
“We had to use a torch light to ascertain the exact location of trapped people only to notice that such assistance would require the services of an ambulance.
“We ran to Eko Hospital for support but were refered to the General Hospital and this process was cumbersome and could not be completed.
“The fire ravaged the more, coincidentally, men of the fire service arrived the scene and swung into action. Emergency services arrived few hours later but without ambulance service. This is pathetic,” he lamented.
The manager of the affected restaurant, identified as Mr Balogun was said to be among the dead.
Also, a residents, Mr Balogun and his colleagues were trapped in the inferno and three of them were later confirmed dead.
Eye witnesses said that the truck driver and motor boys jumped out of the truck and ran for safety on noticing that the truck had developed leakage.
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A resident, Ayoola Babajide said, “We noticed that the truck stopped abruptly and the next was that we noticed a leakage which spread to the neighbourhood. The truck driver and motor boy were very smart to have escaped from the vehicle, else, they would have been trapped.”
Lagos govt reacts
Commissioner for Special Duties, Engr Tayo Bamgbose-Martins, and Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Dr Idris Salako, who led government officials on the spot assessment to the scene of the inferno, while reacting to the unfortunate incident, said the government has commenced a thorough investigation into the incident, he described as “unfortunate.”
According to Bamgbose-Martins: “The state government has commenced thorough investigation into the cause of this tragic incident with a view to determine the immediate and remote cause(s) of the explosion and prevent future occurrence.
“We have regulations guiding the operations of LPG, the relevant authorities will look into this and see how we can enforce and further ensure compliance inorder to save lives and properties of residents. Sanction may also be applied against the owner if found wanting.”
The commissioner, who commiserated with the families of those who lost their love ones, however, urged tanker operators in the state to abide with all safety measures inorder to eliminate avoidable loss of lives and property in the state.
The Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, CP Hakeem Odumosu, immediatly, ordered thorough investigations into the cause of the explosion which occured along Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way, Ikeja, Lagos.
The Spokesperson, Lagos State Police Command, in a statement, said the CP who was at the scene for an on the spot assessment also ordered for immediate dispasal of the crowd as suspected looters might seize the opportunity to loot goods and other items in the complex.
The CP, visited the scene in the company of some police officers and other security and safety agents like: Federal Road Safety Corps, Lagos Fire Service, National Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC.
The statement read in part: “CP Hakeem Odumosu, however deployed additional police personnel to the scene so as to forestall any act of criminality and breakdown of law and order as the scene was largely crowded. He further liaised with the Lagos State Fire Service and other safety agencies in how the scene will be cordoned off and secured for further investigation.
“It was ascertained that thirteen (13) persons were injured during the incident and they have been taken to the hospital for proper medical attention.
“The Commissioner of Police, during his visit to the same scene today Friday 18th June, 2021, confirmed that three lifeless bodies of some identified staffers at the complex were discovered and evacuated from the scene on Friday. He further stated that two victims of the incident, that were rushed to the hospital have passed on; and 25 vehicles were burnt within the premises.
“CP Hakeem Odumosu also promised to institute thorough investigation into the incident as he ordered for interrogation of the driver and owner of the said LPG truck that caused the leakage and inferno.”
However, Odumosu, commended the police, members of the public and other security and safety agencies for their efforts towards quenching the inferno on time and saving many lives and property.”
Incident was unfortunate ― Tanker union executive speaks
The Lagos State branch of Petrol Tanker Drivers, PTD, has described the incident as unfortunate saying the incident was not intentional but divine.
PTD Treasurer, Alhaji Ogunmola Akeem also called on fire service to always be proactive in their services.
According to him: “I was not at the scene of the incident but the reports I gathered said the extent of the damage would have been minimal but for the late arrival of firemen.
“Also, auto technicians should render qualitative service because some road accidents could be caused by non quality service which are not well lit as well.
“The driver didn’t pray for this afterall, he loaded the content peacefully at Apapa and travelled as far as Ikeja before the leakage occured. We are also looking into the cause of the tragedy to curb incidences ,in the interest of the public and operators.”
Tanker regulation in Lagos
Recall that the state government had placed restriction of the movement of fuel tankers to designated trailer route in the state following the tragic tanker explosion on Otedola Bridge inward Ojodu Berger along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway on Thursday, June 28, 2018, which claimed lives and property.
The state government also mandated all articulated truck operators coming into Lagos to obtain the Ministry of Transportation’s Road Worthiness Certificate at any of the designated centres.
The relevant authorities of the state subsequently, held a meeting with all the stakeholders including Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD), National Association of Transport Operators (NATO), Container Truck Owners Association of Nigeria, among others.
At the meeting it was revealed that preliminary investigations attributed combination of a vehicular defect and human errors to tanker mishaps in the state.
As a result, Lagos State Government, announced the following measures: Fuel tankers directed to ply the designated trailer route, that is, Apapa-Oworonshoki Expressway via Ogudu to Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
All tankers and containers coming into Lagos State from henceforth are directed to obtain the Ministry of Transportation Certificate of Road Worthiness at any of our centres within the next 30 days, while new centres along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway will be established to quickly to cope with the expected demand for this service,” Lawanson said.
10 centres which were listed to process the applications, include m: Berger, Ojodu; Odogunyan, Ikorodu; Agric/Ishawo Road, Ikorodu; Works yard, PWD, Shogunle; NCI, Gbagada; VIS Yard, Oko-Afo, Badagry; VIS Yard, Ayobo-Ipaja; Test Centre, Badagry; VIS Yard, Epe; and VIS Yard, Oko-Oba Abattoir.
The government, in partnership with all the stakeholders, then set up joint enforcement of the operating laws, while barriers would be installed on bridges in Lagos to prevent articulated trucks including Ojuelegba, Mobolaji Bank-Anthony, Kodesho, Abule-Egba, Lekki-Ajah, among others.