MRS Oil and Gas tank farm
Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Ejiofor Alike and Chiemelie Ezeobi
No fewer than six persons were injured Wednesday when a petrol barge that belongs to MRS Oil and Gas cut fire and exploded at the company’s main depot in Tin Can Island Area of Lagos.
Before it was gutted by fire, the barge, with registration number ST 215 was the biggest of all the barges the company used to store petroleum products when a big vessel discharged products into the terminal.
A top official of the company, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, told THISDAY that there was a spark, which resulted in fire and explosion during hose disengagement from the barge.
According to him, the barge had received products from a vessel, which finished discharge on Tuesday night.
“The vessel ‘double bunk’ to discharge products to the depot tank farm. Double bunk, which is a common language in shipping, means that the vessel berthed alongside with the barge to further give the vessel support. About four officials were seriously injured,” he said.
No death was officially reported by the company but the official confirmed that about six men, who were involved in the offloading suffered severe burns.
THISDAY gathered that the explosion, which sounded like earthquake, shook the whole of Apapa and shattered the windows of the terminal building, about 50 metres, away.
According to eyewitness account, the fire started at about 11.45am.
Speaking to THISDAY, one of the eyewitness identified as Femi Johnson, said they initially thought it was a bomb that exploded due to the loud noise and the accompanying quake.
He said, “We were going about our daily activities when we suddenly heard a boom. After the loud sound, the ground started quaking. We quickly scampered to safety.
“At first, we thought the dreaded militia; Boko Haram had finally infiltrated Lagos. It was few minutes later when we saw thick billows of smoke spiraling to the sky that we realised that it was a fire incident.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has ordered a probe of the explosion.
Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority, Alhaji Habib Abdullahi who handed over the order while on visit to the scene of the blast yesterday said a full investigation would enable the authority to ascertain the cause of the blast.
Abdullahi announced that the probe into the cause of the incident would be conducted by the authority’s Health Safety and Environment Department in conjunction with Marine and Fire Service to ascertain the immediate and remote causes of the incident.
He appealed to all stakeholders especially port users to go about their normal business activities as the blast has not in any way affected port operations.
Meanwhile, NEMA’s Head of of Public Relations, Mr. Yushau A. Shuaib said in a statement yesterday that there was two incidents of fire outbreak within the Lagos metropolis in the last 24 hours.
“In the last 20 hours for instance two major fire incidents have been recorded in Lagos: fire razed the Ebute Metta neighbourhood last night and a vessel (ship) carrying petroleum product exploded burnt at the Tin Can Island Port today, “ he said.
Two days ago, the Office of the Director of Registry at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Abuja was gutted by the fire.
Shuaib said within the last 24 hours, NEMA’s rescue team and other response agencies, have been able to respond to different fire incidents in the country within the available resources.
He said in most cases the agency has had to rely on the services of trained volunteers to assist on the seeming overwhelming incident of fire outbreaks.
According to him, the agency is exploring further collaboration with these volunteers and other non governmental organisations in the New Year.
NEMA had in December 2012 warned of likely outbreak of fire incidents in the New Year from mishandling of inflammable that could be triggered by the current weather condition (Harmattan/Dry Season) among others.