12 June 2015, Lagos – Nigeria’s acclaimed commercial nerve centre, was within the last two weeks visited by two fire-related tragedies involving petrol tankers. The first happened on June 2, 2015. It was a day many residents, shop owners, land owners, children, businessmen and traders in the Iyana- Ipaja area of the state have already dubbed a ‘Black Tuesday’. And they have their reason.
On that fateful day, property and valuables worth millions of Naira were lost to an inferno which left 14 people injured and rendered hundreds of families homeless. Structures ravaged by the inferno were mostly located in streets identified as Adebayo, Jafojo, Oremeji, Abule- Oki as well as Ipaja Road and the Lagos/Abeokuta expressway, among others.
Problem started around 12.30am when a petrol-laden tanker fell off the Iyana-Ipaja bridge, spilling its content all over the adjoining streets. A spark close to the spill soon caused the tanker to burst into flame. The resulting inferno injured 14 persons, razed 34 buildings, 44 shops and 21 vehicles.
One of the victims of the tragedy is 70-year-old Saula Onifade, a native of Abeokuta, Ogun State who now squats at No 16 Olanrewaju Street with his wife and four children. Before the inferno, Saula a qualified carpenter, owned a workshop in Aboru and supplements his income by renting out working tools. He owned a block of four flats and four shops. But all have been lost to the Tuesday disaster.
Another victim, 38-year-old Ademola David who hails from Ondo State and lives at No 10/12 Oremeji Street lost six shops to the inferno. The house was built in 1978 by his late father who was an Aide de Camp to a former governor in Ondo State. Ademola is one of the 14 victims with varying degrees of injury. He said he almost lost his right hand while trying to combat the fire and to stop it from spreading.
“I have spent a lot of money treating the injury but I am grateful to God for being alive,” he said. Another victim, Madam Dupe Odus, said she has to start life afresh having lost her source of livelihood. Her shop was razed on that day. “My father took possession of the shop about 20 years ago, but I relocated to Lagos to continue the business after his demise, “ she informed.
Lagosians were yet to recover from this tanker fire tragedy when another occurred again in the early hours of last Saturday. This time, a tanker fully loaded with Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, or petrol, fell and spilled its content on the roadway. The fire which eventually resulted from this burnt 34 houses, 70 shops and one tricycle (Keke Marwa) at the Idimu-Ejigbo bye-pass near the Idimu Bus-stop. The accident was said to have happened around 12 midnight.
According to eyewitnesses, two tanker drivers and a commercial bus driver struggled recklessly for right of way as they approached the Idimu intersection. And in a bid to avoid a looming collision, the driver of one of the tankers lost control and the tanker over-turned, spilled it contents and caught fire. The tanker, with registration number KJA 54 XA, is said to be owned by Mustuk Investment Nig Ltd.
But for the timely intervention of the Lagos State Fire Service men from the Ikotun, Isolo and Alausa service stations, the situation could have been worse as through their combined efforts, they were able to put out the fire at about 4am. Several hours later, the area was still littered with burnt goods, ashes, remnants of salvaged goods.
How it happened, by an eyewitness
IFEOMA ONUCHUKWU, an eyewitness, narrated thus: “It happened few minutes past 12:00 am. At this time, I was preparing to close for the day. We noticed when the first trailer passed; and within few minutes, another one passed. The second tanker was almost hitting a petty trader, but at the last second veered off its lane and landed on the setback.
“It was the loud sound that alerted several persons. We all ran for safety. We also started knocking on the doors of houses inn the area to alert people of impending danger. It was at this point the tanker caught fire. I believe the spilled fuel got to a Suya spot. This ignited the fire which began to burn out of control when it came in contact with some mini-generators at the junction.
Victims still count losses
Mr. Funsho Ishola, one of the traders recounted thus: “All my goods were bought with a loan I recently obtained. They should do something for us. I lost about N10 million, being the amount I realised from sales the previous day.”
Mr. Wakili Hamzat, 55-year-old, meat seller, lamented: “ I couldn’t retrieve any of my property. The cloth on me was donated by a friend who saw the extent of the damage. When the fire started, we all ran for safety. In fact, my daughter was missing for over four hours.”
A victim, Yemisi Olushi, who collapsed when she beheld the extent of damage, lamented: “We lost five buildings. We have five houses here. I reside in one and leased the others out. All these have been razed. I don’t know where to start from.”
Alhaja Arikose Adamo, who owns a cafeteria also lamented: “I lost over N2 million and two of my siblings suffered injuries. I started the business 10 days ago. When I arrived here, I tried to rescue my siblings who assisted me in my business. Of the eight living in the room, two sustained injuries and they have been admitted in the hospital.
“My goods were destroyed. I lost over N2 million. Of this, N700, 000 was a loan from the bank. I also lost a generating set I bought on credit for N900,000”. A foodstuff trader, Mrs. Olanike Olomo said: “I was informed of the fire at about 12.30am. When I got here, I couldn’t salvage anything. The fire was extinguished three hours later. But I lost over N200 million worth of goods.”
Head of the Alimosho Red Cross team, Mr. Cletus Ogwuche said four persons sustained cuts on their bodies, two with burns and another one sustained head injury. Ogwushe explained that the two persons who suffered burns have been admitted at a private hospital. “We have treated eight persons who sustained injury in an attempt to escape from the inferno,” he said.