Fuel Tanker Explosion
Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Three persons were feared killed and several others injured, while 13 vehicles were burnt when a petrol tanker exploded and went up in flames after its content spilled on Murtala Mohammend Way in Benin City, the Edo State capital, on Wednesday night.
In Rivers State, the National Emergency Management agency (NEMA) said yesterday that it successfully averted what would have turned out to be a major disaster in the state, when a fuel tanker loaded with Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise known as petrol fell and spilled its content at about 1 p.m. thursday.
However, a commercial bus driver identified as Kingsley Oghagbon, was among the three persons burnt to death, just as residents of Murtala Mohammend Way in Benin City, counted their losses.
Following this, it was gathered that those whose properties were torched were said to have urged the state government to identify the owners of the tanker in order to compensate them.
Eye witnesses said the tanker apparently lost control, fell into a ditch and its products spill on the road, which later resulted in an explosion.
However, 85-year-old Paul Isibor, who lost his new jeep to the fire, said he would have died if his house was gutted by the fire.
He said: “The petrol started flowing and people started running for their dear lives. I called my children to safety. In less than five minutes there was fire everywhere. I have never seen this kind of thing before.
“The fire burnt my jeep I bought last week and a bus parked in my house. I am happy that my house survived. The youths tried and they even used satchet water before fire service came. Government should look for the company that owned the tanker.”
Another victim, George Omusi, said he parked his bus only to be told few minutes later that it was burnt.
He said: “We appealed to the police to help us locate the owners and see how they can render assistance for properties we lost to the fire.”
Brother to the dead bus driver, Charles Oghagbon, said his late brother heard about the spill and decided to remove the bus when he was caught up in the inferno.
He said the bus got burnt immediately his brother switched on the ignition, adding that his brother ran out but fell on the road, while the fire was still burning him.
Another victim, Ehigie Pius, whose car was burnt, said he was in his shop when the incident occurred.
He said the tanker was descending the slope when it fell into the ditch and they later heard a noise.
Meanwhile, NEMA in a statement issued by its Head of Public Relations, Mr. Yushua Shuaib, said it mobilised Fire Service, police and army to prevent a fuel tanker explosion at the popular Igwuruta Roundabout, where a similar disaster occurred in April this year and many lives were lost.
According to him, the promptness of rescuers, who arrived the scene immediately after receiving the distress call saved the area from being consumed by the inferno, when many residents were asleep.
He quoted the Zonal Information Head of NEMA, Roberts Ekemini, who was on ground for the rescue operation as confirming that there was no loss of life during the incident.
“Though no life was lost the rescuers and security agencies had hectic time this morning preventing people from scooping fuel as many of them actually came with containers and keg to get free petrol,” he said.