No fewer than 34 houses and 70 shops were razed by fire after a tanker bearing 33,000 litres of Automotive Gas Oil, also known as diesel, crashed in Idimu area of Lagos State in the early hours of Saturday.
This comes barely three days after a fuel-laden tanker skidded off a bridge at the Iyana Ipaja area of the state and was engulfed in flames, ravaging 40 shops, four buildings, 25 vehicles and six tricycles.
Similarly, a week ago, about 85 lives were lost to a fire disaster sparked off by a derailed fuel tanker in Onitsha, Anambra State.
The Public Relations Officer, National Emergency Management Agency, South-West Zone, Ibrahim Farinloye, explained that the flammable liquid was ignited by the flames of a nearby barbecue shop, also known as suya.
He said the driver of the tanker is at large.
Our correspondent observed that the charred remains of the maroon-painted tanker was unbranded and had no number plate.
Also, the Director, Lagos State Fire Service, Rasaq Fadipe, told SUNDAY PUNCH that the agency received the distress call at 12.08 am and responded promptly.
He said, “Efforts made by the fire service prevented an MRS filling station close by from being engulfed by the fire. We lost some of our fire-fighting equipment to the fire, which could have lasted up to 20 more operations.
Farinloye added that the situation was already under control when NEMA arrived. According to him, the community youths played a significant role in reducing the extent of damage which the fire created.
“Ten of the 34 affected houses were completely destroyed, while the others were partially scorched. Also, 70 shops were burnt. The tanker and a tricycle were the only vehicles affected,” he added.
Speaking to SUNDAY PUNCH at the scene of the incident on Saturday, Head of Operations, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Mr. Femi Giwa, advised the public to stay away from the areas cordoned off, the buildings razed by the fire, to avoid secondary emergency. “They should ensure that they do not go into some of those shops that are burnt until the integrity of those buildings is ascertained,” he added.
Victims lose properties, life savings
Owing to the fire outbreak caused by the fuel tanker crash, scores of residents and small-scale business owners in Idimu lamented their loss of properties which values run into millions of naira.
Some of the victims, who spoke to SUNDAY PUNCH in separate interviews, expressed despair over their losses.
‘I have lost N1.5m’
A visibly devastated Mr. Sodiq Olalere, whose shop was razed by the inferno, told our correspondent that he lost about N1.5m worth of goods.
He said, “I sell tables, compact discs and accessories. This is one of the two shops I have. Everything I have in this one got burnt. I wasn’t aware of the fire until later this morning because my phone was switched off all night.
“It was one of the residents behind my shop that contacted me. He had apparently been trying to reach me throughout the morning. As soon as I turned on my phone, I got a phone call from him, informing me that there was a fire outbreak. I have lost at least N1.5m.”
According to Olalere, he hurried to the shop and arrived at around 10am to find that none of his wares could be salvaged. He said he had had the shop for two years, while expressing his regret that he could not be there on time to put out the fire.
‘Over N5m gone’
Chiwendu Okoli, whose older brother owns a supermarket on Ejigbo Road, a few metres from the scene of the incident, said his family had lost more than N5m to the disaster.
With a gloom look on his face, he told our correspondent that he arrived soon after the fire began but the inferno was too fierce to be put out. Okoli said it destroyed everything in the shop beyond salvage.
Provisions store ravaged
Similarly, Mrs. Bukky Adeyanju, who had a provision store, put her loss at about N300,000. Burnt exercise books, egg trays, packaged foodstuffs, deep freezer, bags of sachet water, among others, were seen in her shop.
Adeyanju said she was devastated by the extent of damage done to her shop.
Neighbours and sympathisers were seen gathered around her, offering words of condolence.
N900,000 goods destroyed
In the same vein, a boutique owner, Mrs. Lola Abiola, who was inconsolable when our correspondent arrived at her shop, told our correspondent that the fire destroyed her goods worth about N900,000.
She was also surrounded by sympathisers, who prevented pressmen from getting closer to her.
‘New business plans thwarted’
Juliet Ochang, who lives on Ejigbo Road, also said she lost N106, 000 to the fire, which had just been contributed by family members and friends for her to start a new trade.
“I went for a vigil last night and when I came back, the entire building was in flames. I had planned to shop for goods such as chairs, small generators and clippers to launch my business,” she lamented.
‘We broke fence to escape’
Another resident on Ejigbo Road, Adeyemi Musa, who narrated how he escaped being consumed by the fire, said the fire almost consumed his house but for prompt reaction from occupants of the building.
According to him, about 50 residents occupied the house.
Musa said, “I was inside when, all of a sudden, I heard a loud bang. I thought it was a bomb. I ran outside and saw the flames coming towards my house. I quickly broke the fence behind my compound so that the people in my building could escape.
“It was with the help of one of our neighbours who sells water that we were able to contain the fire. We mixed the water with detergent to quench it considerably.”