21 July 2012, Sweetcrude, PORT HARCOURT – ABOUT 30 people were feared dead and several others injured as two separate tanker explosions rocked Abuloma waterside and Rumuokehi around Eneka area of Rivers state, Friday.
The explosions at the former PW jetty, Abuloma area of the State occurred at about 9.15am in a vessel.
Eye witnesses said at the scene of the incident that welding work was going on in the ocean liner which was carrying a large quantity of crude when suddenly it exploded three times.
“Several persons are trapped in the burning vessel. Some said they are ten, others put the figure at thirty. But all we know is that some persons have burnt to death in the vessel”, a marine worker said at the scene.
An eyewitness, who said the explosion affected buildings in the area, disclosed that it threw one of the welders several feet above the vessel, with the victim crashing back into the raging fire.
It was gathered that the captain of the vessel and one of his deck hands were among five persons rushed to the hospital.
Confirming the incident, spokesman of Sector II of the Joint Task Force, Operation Pulo Shield in the state, Captain Samuel Sunday said the vessel exploded in the morning hours, but did not disclose further details.
Neighbourhood sources said those that were trapped in the fire included some commercial workers that had stormed the vessel to “dish out service” to those in the cabin. They said the vessel had three cabins and was conveying crude out of the state.
Five hours after the incident, men from the Rivers State Fire Service arrived the scene. But, their effort to extinguish the raging fire on the vessel was helpless as their hoses could not reach the vessel which was at the shore end of the jetty.
“The fire fighters from the government only came here on sight seeing. They could not do anything because their hoses could not get to the spot where the vessel is burning,” said a source.
In another development, the Sector II of the Joint Task Force, Operation Pulo Shield set fire on five petrol tankers conveying illegal crude at Eneka area of the state.
This resulted in several explosions that caused panic in the area. But, spokesman of the security body, Captain Sunday said no life was lost in the operation, adding that six persons were arrested over the issue.
Also on Friday, seven offices in the administration area of the Rivers state owned newspaper, The Tide were razed in an early morning inferno.
The state government was yet to issue a release on the incident at press time but workers were seen milling around the office premises discussing the development in groups.