The recklessness of tanker drivers was once again underscored wednesday when a petrol tanker laden with Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) fell sidewards and exploded on FESTAC link bridge in Lagos, razing no fewer than 20 cars.
While majority of the burnt cars belonged to a private car lot, the others belonged to motorists who were trying to access FESTAC Town through the link bridge.
According to eyewitness account, the tanker driver who was heading to Apple Junction roundabout, was said to have swerved and fell.
Although no life was lost, two persons however sustained injuries, just as the fire caused a huge loss for traders in the area as their goods and about five motorcycles were gutted.
The injured were identified as Kenneth Odogwu, who suffered leg burns and one Olumide, said to have passed out after inhaling the fumes from the explosion.
THISDAY gathered that 18 of the 20 vehicles trazed were recently imported by a car dealer, one Chinedu Nwafor, who displayed them at his car lot beside the bridge.
According to the devastated traders the red tanker, was ascending the bridge from First Avenue when it suddenly lost control, rolled backward, fell and spilled its content into the canal and adjoining roads.
Although the tanker fell, fire was only ignited when a vanagon bus made to reverse upon sighting the tanker and it’s spilled content.
According to Ebuka Okpala, “The tanker attempted to climb the bridge but had difficulty in navigating. It started going back and it fell.
“The closest vehicle to the tanker was a bus. The bus was carrying food stuffs and a woman was the one driving it. As soon as she saw the tanker spilling petrol, she started her engine and made to reverse. That was when the explosion occurred.
“The woman could not even come out of her vehicle. It was some of my brothers that assisted her out. The fire jumped from her car and caught another bus carrying bread on the other side of the road.
“Then from the tanker, the fire entered the car shop and burnt so many vehicles. A man who was inside a Nissan car was burnt on his leg.
“Another man, an area boy, who was assisting the car shop owner to move some vehicles fainted. He was rushed to the hospital. The fire was too much.
“People just abandoned their motorcycles and fled. We did not even know when the driver escaped. I did not see him.”
The car lot owner, who expressed shock over the disaster, said by the time they heard the explosion and rushed out, nine of his vehicles displayed outside were already in flames.
Blaming the Federal Fire Service for not responding timely to the emergency, he lamented that even though they got to the scene early, they neither had water nor extinguisher to put out the fire.
He said: “I was here. We heard a vehicle rolling back. We started rushing out to know what was the cause but before we got to the gate, we heard an explosion.
“We started rushing to remove our cars. I lost 18 vehicles in all including a Lorry. Outside the gate, nine of my vehicles were burnt. Inside there, I lost a Honda CRV, Pathfinder, Toyota 4Runner, Highlander, RX330 and a lorry.
“Honestly, I cannot give you the cost of the losses because I have not even itemised them yet. We are still very shocked at the while incident. We have some vehicles that are up to N11 million, others about N7.5 million. I can tell you roughly that we have lost about N80 million in this fire.”
Another victim, Charles the bag seller said, “During the former chairman’s tenure, tankers do not climb this bridge but because of corruption in our society, they have allowed the trucks to be passing. See the losses they have caused me.
“A tipper carrying sand finds it difficult to climb this bridge talk more of tanker. I have lost begs worth about N4.5 million. All burnt to ashes. Something must be done about this incident.”
Amuwo Odofin Local Government Chairman, Valentine Buraimoh, who was at the scene to assess the situation, sympathised with persons whose properties were destroyed, assuring them that the owners of the tankers would be held responsible.
He also assured that the iron bars on the link bridge would be returned to stop heavy duty vehicles from plying the route.
Buraimoh said: “I have gone round and seen the extent of damage done. I sympathise with those affected. I am also here to take stock of damages so that I can do a letter to the governor to notify him.
“I have gotten in touch with the DPO of Festac and asked for the vehicle registration number of the truck. I want to believe that the owners have insurance that would offset the great losses incurred.
“We are thankful that no casualty was recorded. It is quite unfortunate that the fire fighting gadgets of the state did not get here early as a result of proximity.
“This is why Amuwo Odofin deserves an equipped emergency station to take care of Amuwo, Ojo and Ifelodun, rather than calling the responders from far distance since we know the traffic situation we have in Lagos.
Confirming the incident, the General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Adesina Tiamiyu, said the tanker was carrying AGO, adding that it detached from its truck and fell by its side.
He said, “It later exploded due to an aftermath ignition of a commuter bus. No life was loss but one adult male sustained minor injury.
“The combined effort of emergency responders aided in containing the fire around 2:20pm. The explosion affected 21 vehicles to 18 cars and three commuter buses, as well as five bikes.
“The agency’s rescue/ recovery equipment is on ground to ensure the burnt vehicles are taken off the road and to restore normalcy. Proper investigation would be conducted on the incident.”