Scores Dead, Vehicles Burnt Following Tanker Explosion in Warri – Benin Highway Due to Deplorable State of Roads 

*Delta Gov, CP commiserate with victims’ families

Sylvester Idowu in Warri and  Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba

Scores of people were reportedly killed  and several vehicles burnt following a tanker explosion at Koko junction along Sapele-Warri-Benin expressway in Warri North local government area of Delta State which has the highest oil production in the country. The state of the road has been a major source of concern to the people of the area.

However, Delta State Police Command spokesman,  Mr. Bright Dafe, a deputy superintendent of police (DSP),  said five persons died   while “eight buses of different makes, two tankers, five trailers (trucks), two motorcycles, one Sienna space bus and one ‘C’ Class (brand of) Mercedes Benz car” got burnt.
The incident, THISDAY learnt, occurred in the early hours of yesterday, when the fuel tanker fell and exploded into huge flames,  spilling its dangerous inflammable contents into the surroundings.
Koko junction and neighbouring Ologbo, both border towns between Edo and Delta, have been a nightmare for motorists because of the deplorable state of the expressway.

Vehicles, particularly articulated ones, fall freely on daily basis as a result of deep craters that most times consume smaller cars. Motorists spend hours, trapped in the usual traffic gridlock that characterised the areas
One of the sources, who witnessed late Saturday incident, said he counted at least 20 charred bodies of victims of the explosion resulting from a spark from a faulty vehicle while the victims were scooping fuel that spilled from the fallen tanker.

He disclosed that, among the dead, were a pregnant woman, children, and some elderly persons.
“The tanker fell and spilled its contents on the road and some persons rushed to scoop fuel despite being warned by drivers and security men who had stormed the scene after they learnt the tanker had fallen. We tried to prevent them but the youths threatened to beat us up telling us it’s their community. They came in their numbers carrying all sorts of containers and when the explosion happened around 12:15 am this morning we all fled. You can see dead bodies on the ground, some of them ran into the forest. As I speak, some dead bodies have been removed, I counted over 20 bodies,” the eye witness said.
When THISDAY visited the scene, some dead bodies burnt beyond recognition were seen on the ground, with several burnt vehicles including the exploded tanker.

Meanwhile,  Governor Sheriff Oborevwori of Delta State and the State Commissioner of  Police, Mr Wale Abass, have commiserated with the families of the  persons who lost their lives in the tragic   incident.
According to the Delta State Police Command spokesman,  Mr. Bright Dafe (a deputy superintendent of police, DSP), who gave the human and vehicular casualty figures yesterday  evening, the police could not immediately make out the different registration numbers of the burnt vehicles due to the severity of the fire.
“Due to the fire, the registration numbers of all these affected vehicles were not clearly visible”, Dafe said.

Oborevwori’s condolence message, which was conveyed in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary,  Festus Ahon, also said: “The State Emergency Management Agency led by the Commissioner for Special Duties, Mr. Ejiro Terry, were  already at the scene to provide help and support for the victims.”
However, Edafe confirmed that the “bodies of the five victims were evacuated to Oghara General Hospital mortuary”, through combined efforts of policemen from Oghara Police Station, men of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and officials from the Ethiope West Local Government Area, who arrived the scene earlier.

The officers and men were also making frantic efforts to clear the road of obstructions due to the complicated chaos created by the many burnt vehicles, just to ensure reasonable flow of traffic on the failed portion of the Warri-Benin Road at the boundary between Delta and Edo states, he said.

Nevertheless, Governor Oborevwori, while warning people to refrain from rushing to scoop petroleum products at scenes of fallen tankers, blamed the Federal Government for the tragedy, saying the state government and well-meaning citizens have been appealing for long for Federal Government to fix the Warri-Benin Road and other badly run down federal government (Trunk ‘A’) roads across the state.
He said that citizens of the state and commuters encounter harrowing experiences navigating the road and called on the authorities to as a matter of utmost importance and urgency fix the road to avoid further incidents like this.

The governor said: “On behalf of the government and people of Delta State, I commiserate with families of the victims who lost their lives to the inferno.
“This sad and unfortunate incident would have been avoided if the Federal Government had lived up to their responsibility of maintaining their roads.
“While I mourn the deceased, I use this medium to reiterate my earlier call on the Federal Government to save the lives of our people from these harrowing experiences.
“I also use this medium to advise our people to refrain from the dangerous act of scooping fuel from a fallen tanker because of the highly inflammable nature of the product”.

The state Commissioner of Police, Mr Wale Abass, while consoling the bereaved families, also cautioned against the dangerous practice of people scooping spilled fuel at accident scenes.
“CP Abass stated that it is sad that we never learn from past occurences, since this isn’t the first time such incident has happened. Nonetheless, he appeals that Nigerians should do away with greed and avoid scenes where there is an occurence of oil spillages as it pose a serious threat to their lives and the lives of others”, the police spokesman said.

In another development, Governor Oborevwori has stated that his administration remained committed to rural-urban integration, assuring that the government will construct more roads to open the rural areas across the state.
He also urged Nigerians not to lose hope in the country, saying that Nigeria remained the pride of other African countries where democracy was being sustained despite the challenges.

  The governor was speaking in Asaba  at the 63rd Independence anniversary of Nigeria, which also afforded an interdenominational thanksgiving service for his triple victory at the State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Asaba.
The tribunal on Friday reaffirmed INEC’s declaration of Oborevwori as the winner of the March 18, 2023 election and duly returning him as Governor, dismissing the separate petitions from Ovie Omo-Agege of the APC, Kenneth Gbagi of the SDP and Ken Pela of the Labour Party.

Related Articles