By Chinedu Eze
Tragic inferno was averted yesterday when sparks from a welder’s battery led to an explosion at the tankers park about 300 metres to the international terminal of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, leaving the welder severely burnt.
THISDAY investigation revealed that the welder, whose name was yet to be ascertained at press time, was working on one of the trailers when the battery head powering his equipment sparked fire and there was explosion, which ignited flames in the park.
The welder was burnt in the process but with the concerted efforts of fire fighters from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) the fire was stopped from spreading, thereby averting a very tragic incident.
One of the firefighting officials told THISDAY that if not for the timely intervention of firefighters the whole airport would have been engulfed in flames because many of the tankers still had aviation fuel and each tanker had at least 33,000 litres of the product, known as Jet A1.
“We were signaled when we heard explosion and we quickly readied our two major props and drove to the area. By then the fire had started spreading and rising but we were able to put it off and prevented it from spreading to other tankers, some of them were laden with fuel. It would have been tragic. But we were able to contain it.
“We wore our protective gear and went into the fire, using foam and chemical, we were able to put it out. We hastened to do that because every second it was allowed would have been tragic. We used two of our major props,” the fire service official told THISDAY.
Over the years airport users and others have complained about the danger of locating tankers’ park very close to the airport and also very close to the Joint User Hydrant Installation (JUHI) tank farm because of such incidents as this.
In his maiden media chat after the facility tour of the Lagos airport in December last year, the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi assured listeners that he would discuss with FAAN on how to ensure that the tankers were relocated or taken away from the area too close to the airport.
THISDAY investigation confirmed that there was no anti-fire equipment at the tankers’ park; in fact, there is no provision made to avert possible fire at the park.
Industry observers said this incident should send enough signal to the federal government and to FAAN that to prevent a more grievous incident, the tank farm should be moved farther away from the airport and fire-fighting equipment and more facilities provided for the new park.