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Principal pays ultimate price during rescue of pupils from explosion

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Bethlehem Girls College entrance before (above) and after the explosion

I am lucky to be alive though I lost two of my houses

Residents of Abule Ado area of Amuwo Odofin local government area, Lagos State, are counting their losses after a devastating explosion that claimed 15 lives and destroyed over 100 houses.

Among the affected building are Bethlehem Girls College and a popular hotel. At least, 60 injured students of Bethlehem Girls College have been taken to the Nigerian Navy Hospital in Ojo Cantonment for treatment.

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Unconfirmed reports say of the 15 casualties, the principal of the college, Rev. Sr. Henrietta Alokha, who struggled to rescue her students from the rubbles of the devastation died yesterday morning as a roof of one of the school buildings fell on her in the process of the rescue effort.

Also, four students and the school bursar were reported to have been among the casualties. Eyewitnesses said the casualties would have been much had many not left their homes to attend Sunday service in their various churches.

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The college was worst hit because the boarding school was having its Sunday mass when the explosion occurred. A family of four were also recovered from the scene, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said. A couple and their two sons were caught by the explosion on their way to church at about 9:00 a.m.
 
According to a civil servant with the ministry of transport, Madukwe Hyacinth, who lost two buildings and four vehicles to the incident, he started perceiving the smell of gas at about 8:00 a.m. He said he had instructed his gateman to put off his generating set, thinking the leakage was from one of the houses using cooking gas.

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Hyacinth, who had just returned from London, on Sunday morning said: “This whole incident is just like a movie scene. I just came back from London this morning and was relaxing in my bedroom when this happened. My wife and my children had gone for morning service, and it was just me and my gateman at home.
 
“When I started perceiving the smell of gas, I called my security man to put off the generator because there was no light then. I was thinking there was gas leakage from one of the houses around. But shortly after, I heard the sound of the explosion. The entire roof of my two buildings went off, the windows were broken, and all I can say now is that I am lucky to still be alive. What if my children and wife were around, God knows what would have happened.”

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However, another victim, who gave his name simply as Mr. Timothy, was of the opinion that the explosion was not caused by gas emission. He said: “I lost my house in this attack, and the authorities are saying it was a gas explosion, I don’t believe that. Did you see the level of havoc done? Over 200 houses affected, many cars destroyed, how can gas explosion blow off the roof of a house without burning it. Even house that was far off were affected. They should investigate this, as I think this is a terrorist attack, camouflaged as a gas explosion.”
 
Also speaking on the losses incurred as a result of the disaster, the chairman Nigeria Automobile Technician Association, Trade Fair branch, Prince Muritala Olawoye, said hundreds of vehicles were vandalised as a result of the explosion. He said the mechanic village had also lost three ovens, worth over N10 million each, as he called on the government to come to their aid.
 

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Another victim of the explosion, Prince Ajele Abayomi told newsmen that his house was razed down. His wife, who sustained the injury, was also rushed to the hospital after the explosion. “We are appealing to the state government to come to our rescue. The explosion was not caused by a pipeline explosion.”

The chairman of Amuwo-Odofin LGA, Dr. Valentine Buraimoh, in the company of other executives of the council, said that the explosion was not caused by human vandalization but by a technical mishap along the pipeline channels. Buraimoh, popularly known as the Mayor, also sustained an injury while going around to ascertain the level of the damage.

He gave a mandate for evacuated victims to be moved to the primary health centre for first aid and subsequent movement to general hospital for emergency situations.

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