No fewer than 40 shops, four buildings, 25 vehicles and six tricycles were ravaged by fire on Tuesday in the Iyana-Ipaja area of Lagos after a fuel-laden tanker marked, KJA 238 XN, skidded off the bridge and was engulfed in flames.
The tanker, carrying 33,000 litres of petrol, was said to have fallen on a van parked under the bridge, spilling its content which ran through the drainage channels from Iyana-Ipaja Road to Adebanjo, Oremeji, Oki and Bakare Jafojo streets.
The driver is still on the run.
Our correspondent gathered that property worth millions of naira was lost to the inferno, which started around 2am on Tuesday, just as two similar occurrences were averted at the Badagry area of the state after two other tankers fell.
It will be recalled that about 85 lives were lost on Sunday to a fire disaster sparked off by a derailed fuel tanker in Onitsha, Anambra State.
The Tuesday 02/06/2015 fire reportedly broke out after an electric surge from a high tension on Bakare Jafojo Street. The petrol in the drain caught fire and raged back to Iyana Ipaja Road where the spillage started.
About 14 persons were injured while scampering to safety. Some miscreants were also said to have cashed in on the incident to loot shops.
It was learnt that the Lagos State Fire Service responded with a 50,000 litres of water to put out the fire around 4am. No life was lost.
As of 1pm when our correspondents left the area, a combined team of Lagos State Fire Service, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, the Nigerian Police Force, Federal Road Safety Corps and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps were on ground.
Sympathisers besieged the area as shop owners counted their losses. Officials of LASEMA were also seen spraying foams on the spilled content to make it less potent.
A trader, Bintu Ariyo, who sells food and drinks, told PUNCH Metro that all the valuables in her shops were consumed by the fire.
She said, “I sell rice and sachet water. My refrigerator and every other things are gone. I am doomed.”
Izuchukwu Eze, a dealer in electronics, estimated the goods he lost to the fire at about N4m.
He said, “I live in the neighbourhood. I was woken up by shouts of fire around 2am. When I came out, I saw that my shop was also on fire. I was helpless because I couldn’t go near the fire. I sell electrical equipment; everything in the shop was destroyed. The goods were worth over N4m.”
A phone dealer, Uchenna Young, lamented his loss. He added that he stocked his shop on Monday.
“I tried to save some of my property, but the heat and the smoke were too much. That shop was the only source of livelihood I had.”
A pharmacist, Emmanuel Aguh, said he was devastated, adding that only God could redeem the loss done to him by the incident.
He said, “The drugs inside that shop were more than N300,000. I don’t know where to start again. Unfortunately, some people saw the incident as an opportunity to steal.”
A resident, Jamiu Okanlawon, said his Toyota Camry and two cars of his neighbours got burnt.
“Twenty two other cars were burnt and no fewer than 40 shops were engulfed in flames. Six tricycles also got burnt,” he added.
A woman, Jemilat Lawal, whose house was razed, said, “My husband, children and I escaped through the window. Our property was destroyed. We could not pick anything. The only property we have now are the clothes we are putting on.”
A resident, who identified himself only as Femi, said he narrowly escaped death while he was trying to salvage some of his documents.
He said, “The incident was like a nightmare. A wire sparked around 1.30am when electricity was restored and a flash dropped inside the drainage channel where the fuel had spilled. My wife woke me up that there was fire everywhere. I took my two kids together with my wife and we escaped through the fence. ”
Kazeem Oladunjoye, who lives on Bakare Jafojo Street, said a man was trapped in the conflagration when he attempted to drive his car to safety. He said a bus recently bought for commercial purpose was gutted.
He said, “The fire traced the path of the petrol up to the source where the tanker fell off the bridge; before we realised what was happening, all the vehicles parked by the roadside were engulfed in flames. One of the neighbours, who tried to drive away his commercial bus, was injured in the process. The bus eventually got burnt. I had only bought my bus three months ago; I wanted to use it for commercial purpose.”
The Director of the Lagos Fire Service, Mr. Rasaq Fadipe, said his men responded promptly to douse the flames, adding that the agency also prevented two similar occurrences in the state on Tuesday.
He said “The fire caused a lot of havoc. We engaged in active firefighting operation as soon as we arrived and with the help of the public, we were able to douse the fire.
“However, we discovered that 21 vehicles had been consumed by the fire, six tricycles were also consumed, 17 shops were affected, while electric poles and wires in the affected area were also burnt. No life was lost, but about 14 people sustained injuries while trying to salvage their property. The affected people have been treated by LASAMBUS and discharged.
“There was another tanker that fell on its side at Ilaje Bus Stop on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway. It was conveying 33,000 litres of diesel to Badagry. But we were able to manage it and it did not result in fire though there was a significant spillage on the road.
“Another one happened close to the tollgate at Magbon bus stop on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway. The tanker was contesting the narrow road with a tipper when it fell on its side. It was also conveying 33,000 litres Kerosene. We managed it well and it did not result in fire.
“Tanker drivers that want to drive at night must rest during the day so that there would not be fatigue to handle the trucks at night. We urge the drivers to be very careful.”
Tthe Head of Operation, LASEMA, Femi Giwa, said, “The fire engulfed about 30 shops, five houses, 23 vehicles, and six tricycles. We had 14 casualties who suffered minor injuries. They have been treated and discharged.”
The Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has blamed frequent tanker explosions in the state, which usually lead to fire and loss of lives and property, on the carelessness and indiscipline of drivers.
The governor said this on Tuesday when he visited the scene of the fire in Iyana-Ipaja.
He said, “Around 1am, a tanker loaded with 33,000 litres of petrol fell from the Ipaja Bridge and spilled its content covering almost five streets here.
“In the last four hours, all our emergency agencies have been effectively on the ground and we have been able to manage and control consequences of what 33,000 litres of petrol would have done to this neighbourhood.
“Thank God, there has not been any loss of lives, but again, there are victims whose shops were destroyed.
“As of the last count, the agencies have been able to report that everything has been put under control. We have also recorded two other incidences, just like this one in other parts of Lagos; one in Badagry and the other one in the Ojo area.
“It would also mean that our tanker drivers have to start doing something about their operations. We cannot continue to record loss of lives and property because our tanker drivers are not discipline.”
The Commissioner of Police, Mr Kayode Aderanti, said, “The tanker fell off the Ipaja bridge. We did not have any fatality, but we had some casualties. The police will investigate the remote and immediate causes of this incident.”