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Black Christmas in Rivers as tanker explosion burns three to death, razes shops, houses

By Lawrence Njoku, Enugu, Tobi Awodipe and Emeka Nwachukwu, Lagos, Ann Godwin, Port Harcourt and Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi, Jos
27 December 2018   |   4:20 am
It is deaths without end for hapless road users on Rivers State highways due to tanker explosion. Barely two weeks after a fire from a fallen tanker killed...

• NEMA evacuates two bodies, confirms accidents on Lagos-Ibadan highway
• Death averted in Lagos as multiple accidents cause injuries
• Police investigate boy’s death from fire inferno
• Three killed in Plateau, council orders hotels to shut down by 6:00p.m.

It is deaths without end for hapless road users on Rivers State highways due to tanker explosion. Barely two weeks after a fire from a fallen tanker killed two persons on Eleme-Onne road in Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State, another tanker fire on Christmas Day burnt three persons to death, while destroying shops and houses around Rumuola and GRA Phase 4 in Port Harcourt Local Government Area of the state.

The Guardian gathered that the tanker overturned following a brake failure at the Rumuola junction, spilling its content on the road from the junction to Rumukalabo, a distance of about 10 minutes before an explosion broke out that burnt everything in sight from the drains to the shops and houses at Rumuola and GRA.

The recent tanker explosion in the state that claimed the lives of the tanker driver and hos conductor occurred after the driver lost control on bumping into a pothole.

Eyewitnesses blamed the massive damage to the slow response of the state fire service. One of the eyewitnesses, Franklin Ogba, said the fire fighters were unable to arrive at the scene until about two hours later.

He lamented that despite several efforts to alert the fire service as soon as the explosion occurred, their response rate was very slow, leading the massive loss of properties, leaving many affected property owners to endure a soulful Christmas.

Another resident, Mrs. Pauline Chiama, urged relevant agencies to caution tanker drivers against reckless driving, adding that trucks conveying petroleum products should be checked before plying the roads to reduce the carnage on the highways.

The incessant tanker fire incidents have cast a huge fear on residents who now avoid driving close to petroleum tankers.

On another development, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) yesterday confirmed the death of two persons in Ogun State, just as it urged road users to be cautious on the road during yuletide.

The hit-and-run victims were a middle-aged man found by the roadside directly opposite Christopher University, around Redemption Camp and Sagamu Interchange; and a mangled body, whose gender could not be ascertained at the Magboro/MFM end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Both bodies were ran over and left mutilated by vehicles.

Spokesperson for NEMA, Ibrahim Farinloye, in a statement yesterday, urged anyone whose relation was missing to approach the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Mowe Unit Command, Ogun State, for identification of the recovered bodies.

“The attention of the FRSC Mowe Unit Command has been drawn to the body picked up by NEMA for recovery so that relations could have easy access to the body at the Unit Command. NEMA is also calling on the Public Health Officials and authority of Obafemi Owode Local Government Area to expedient action in quick removal of the mangled body in view of public health implications if unattended to fast.

“NEMA is appealing to motorists to exercise caution when driving as objects or human can cross the road at anytime. People are urged to avoid drinking alcohol in as much as they need to drive. The observance of limit driving is meant to safeguard both road users and pedestrians,’’ he said.

In another development, Farinloye said two different accidents occurred on the long bridge and at Kara-Isheri in Ogun State. “On the long bridge, a lorry with registration number SMK 550XN laden with iron wire crashed on a 24-seater bus with registration number LSR 653 XT.

“One middle-aged woman and a man sustained injuries but were treated on initial First Aid by NEMA and FRSC officials before being taken to Accidents and Emergency Medical Centre at Lagos Toll Gate, by 7Up.

“Also another 14-seater Lagos painted commercial bus with full passengers with registration number SMK 349 XR lost its brake at Kara-Isheri, Ogun State and hit a commercial motorcyclist. The cyclist sustained minor injury,’’ he said.

He added that the agency was using the opportunity to appeal to beach revelers and other fun seekers to exercise and observe utmost caution and keep an `eagle eye’ on their children for their safety.

“Beach and swimming pools’ operators are enjoined to be vigilant and ensure their rescuers are on beach and swimming pools side at all times in case of emergencies,’’ he said.

It was also a black Christmas for some motorists and commuters plying Ikorodu Road inwards Ikorodu town just before Asolo bus-stop as two separate accidents left many injured and cars completely wrecked.

According to the spokesperson of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Kehinde Adebayo, a tanker conveying 33,000 litres of petrol ran into two cars and a commercial bus due to brake failure. It subsequently swerved after hitting them and landed in the nearby river.

The affected vehicles were a complete write-off and the occupants while passengers were rushed to a nearby hospital for medical treatment. Fortunately, the tanker neither exploded nor caught fire but the road was cordoned off to prevent further accidents, causing a heavy gridlock on the busy road.

While LASEMA officials and the fire service were trying to rescue the trailer from the river, another lone accident occurred on the other side of the express inwards Mile 12 at Itowolo bus-stop. On arrival at the scene, it was discovered that a Mitsubishi canter truck with registration no KJA 46 XS loaded with premium brew product somersaulted into the other lane, rammed into two cars, forcing them off the road and into the bush.

Speaking with The Guardian, Adebayo said investigations carried out revealed that the driver was on very high speed when the tyre burst and as a result, lost control of the vehicle and somersaulted. The affected victims were rushed to a nearby hospital for medical attention.

The accidents caused severe traffic on the axis, which extended to as far as Owode-onirin. Public transporters capitalised on the situation to hike bus fares to N600 from N200 as commercial motorcyclists also made brisk business by ferrying passengers across the express for as high as N1,000.

In Enugu State, the police command yesterday commenced an investigation into the death of an eight-year-old boy from suspected kerosene fire that occurred in Umundu community, Udenu Local Government Area of the state.

The command’s spokesman, SP Ebere Amaraizu, who confirmed the incident in a statement, said the incident occurred on Sunday night. Amaraizu said the boy and his family were in their house when the fire broke out and engulfed the whole apartment on the fateful day.

“It was gathered that the incident occurred when the victim, little Chikamso Nnamani, about eight years old, had tried to refill their lamp with kerosene. But unfortunately, the light went wild and quickly engulfed the whole house. It was further gathered that as occupants were scampering for safety, the said Chikamso ran towards another direction where he was allegedly consumed by the fire,’’ he said.

According to Amaraizu, a full-scale investigation has commenced into the incident. He noted that the serene community had been thrown into mourning this festive season following the unfortunate incident.

Also, three persons were killed in Barkin Ladi local government area of Plateau State on Tuesday night by unknown gunmen at a drinking bar during the Christmas festivity. Due to the killings, the implementation committee chairman of the council, Mr. Dickson Chollom, has directed all hotels in the council to close shop to customers by 6:00p.m. everyday till further notice.

Chollom gave the directive after visiting Mafen hotel where the attack took place by suspected herdsmen. Three others were also injured in the attack. He described the attack as unfortunate despite measures put in place by government to ensure all citizens are protected. The injured are receiving treatment at Plateau Specialist Hospital in Jos.

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