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Hell visits Lagos, 39 roasted in pipeline fire

Posted by By CHRISTOPHER ORJI, MATTHEW DIKE and TESSY OKOYE on 2008/05/16 | Views: 3026 |

Hell visits Lagos, 39 roasted in pipeline fire

No fewer than 39 people, including at least 15 school children, were feared killed yesterday when a petroleum pipeline exploded in the Ijegun area of Lagos in the mid-morning hours.

No fewer than 39 people, including at least 15 school children, were feared killed yesterday when a petroleum pipeline exploded in the Ijegun area of Lagos in the mid-morning hours.

Scores of others sustained varying degrees of injury with many on danger list, while property worth millions of naira were destroyed. About 20 houses and several vehicles were totally razed. Personal effects were seen littering the place.
Deacon Timothy Oladele, chairman of the Red Cross in Lagos State put the death toll at 39.

Yesterday’s incident would be the fifth major pipeline explosion in Lagos alone in the last two years.
An emergency medical stand has since been set up by officials of the Nigerian Red Cross and Lagos State Ambulance Service where medical officers were attending to the injured victims.
Men of the Lagos State Fire and Emergency Service were in the area trying to curtail the fire. Their efforts, however, had yielded little results as at press time as the inferno prevented them from getting close to the scene.

The explosion reportedly took place at about 11.15 am and was alleged to have been caused by construction workers fixing a road. An eye witness said the construction workers were unaware that petrol pipes lay underneath the earth. He disclosed that in the cause of the exercise, the pipe was ruptured and huge balls of fire engulfed the whole area.

An earthmover belonging to a construction firm reportedly ruptured the pipes, leading to a deafening explosion which destroyed the fence of two nearby schools, Ijegun Government College and Ijegun Primary School. The fence was said to have fallen on a number of the school children.
Many of the dead included passengers, drivers and other artisans doing business inside the Ijegun Motor Park. A woman identified simply as Biliki and her baby also perished in the inferno.

A woman operating a canteen in the park identified as Mama Rashida also died alongside some of her customers. A lady selling cassettes, a palm wine seller vending his merchandise on a bicycle and one Adewale, a bus conductor were also consumed by the raging inferno. The palm wine seller reportedly struggled to crawl out of the flames. He, however, died soon after.
An injured victim, Mrs Akinremi, who operates a video club in the park said: “I was sitting down when I heard a loud explosion and saw balls of fire. I stood up and took to my heels. But the fire still caught up with me. But I thank God that I’m alive.”

Another victim, Suru Sosun, a bricklayer, said he was working in the area when the explosion occured. He suffered burns on his back. Samuel Ahuati from Benin Republic, another bricklayer, also suffered burns on his back, while fleeing from the raging flames.
An eye witness, Basil Aladinma, told Daily Sun that the contract for construction of the road was awarded about five years ago. “But Fashola promised to do it for the people. The construction of that road has unfortunately brought tears to the eyes of the residents. But this is the work of the devil.”
A man whose son attends Ijegun Primary School, Mr. Useni Olaiya, told Daily Sun how the boy, Shina, escaped death by the whiskers.

“When the fence collapsed, they started running and were falling over one another. My son jumped over the fence and escaped. I thank God for sparing his life.”
Pandemonium immediately broke out in the area. Panic stricken residents were hurrying out of the place enmasse. Pupils of Ijegun Primary school where the dead children attended were also evacuated from the area. The place at the moment can be likened to a war-torn community.

Cries of wailing mothers in search of their children could be heard all over the disaster scene. Anxious relations in search of their family members have also taken over the area.
According to Theresa Nkiru Odinma, who was wailing uncontrollably, she was yet to see her son, Chuks, who left for school in the morning hours before the explosion.
“It was after he left for school that the explosion happened. The teacher at school said they have not seen him, and he has not returned home yet. I am finished. Where do I go from here? That is the only eye that I have,” she cried.

Despite the death recorded and the volatility of the area, some people were still seen scooping fuel close to the site of the explosion.
Officials of the Nigerian Red Cross on rescue mission have been moving the corpses to the morgue, while also administering first aid treatment to injured victims before taking them to the hospital.
Street urchins under the guise of assisting in rescue operations went on looting spree, carting away belongings of scared residents.
According to Marvel Apkoyibo, a Deputy Commissioner of Police, 10 people have so far been arrested for looting, while mobile policemen were deployed to forestall further looting and breakdown of law and order.

Yesterday’s incident is happening barely five months after a similar carnage took place at Agbabo, a village along Lagos coastline. The pipelines which stretched along the swampy mangrove area erupted on December 26, last year, consuming vandals who ruptured and scooped oil from the burst pipes.
The Agbagbo village disaster happened exactly one year after a similar carnage at Abule-Egba, a Lagos suburb, where over 200 people were burnt to death while trying to scoop fuel from a ruptured pipe.

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