Port Harcourt — Tragedy has again struck in Rivers State as about 30 persons comprising crew members and casual workers believed to have been trapped in a vessel were said to have been burnt to death at Abuloma Jetty in Port Harcourt yesterday.
The administrative block of the Rivers State government- owned newspaper, 'The Tide' as well as engineering section of the Silverbird Rhythm 93. 7 FM radio Station were also gutted by fire in the early hours of yesterday.
Also yesterday, five petrol tankers, suspected to be carrying adulterated fuel from bunkering sites were reeportedly burnt by men of the Joint Military Task Force at the Eneka axis of Port Harcourt, causing heavy explosions and fear among the community.
The acting JTF spokesman, Captain Sunny Samuel did not respond to calls and text messages sent to him to confirm the allegation that men of the JTF set the five tankers ablaze.
Yesterday's fire disasters is coming a week after another petrol tanker explosion in Okogbe community in Ahoada West Local Government Area of the state claimed 191 lives.
Weekly Trust gathered from reliable sources at Abuloma Jetty
that the foreign vessel, which docked at the Jetty for major repair of leaking on board was gutted by fire caused by a spark during a welding.
According to sources, the fire, which started around 8:30am from the vessel spread to some petroleum laden tankers by the jetty side, kept burning for about 6 hours, affecting a nearby vessel and about eight tug boats before fire fighters arrived the scene.
The National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA Zonal Coordinator in the South South zone, Umesi Emenike, told Weekly Trust that five persons were rescued and taken to hospital for treatment, adding that there was no casualty figure yet known as the occupants of the vessel were still unknown.
The Public Relations Officers of the Abuloma Youth Council, Ransome Iyala Opuiyo told Weekly Trust that "information reaching us from our vigilante group has it that the vessel came for external work, it is a foreign vessel that is unknown here. It docked here because it has major leakage on board. It was when they were welding the leaking part that it sparked fire and the remnant of oil on the vessel caused this disaster.
"It is said that about 30 people are trapped on board this vessel. We have seen five people recued and rushed to the hospital this morning (yesterday)."
As at the time of filing this reportat 2:15pm, the fire was gathering momentum as Fire Fighters from the Rivers State Fire Services and Elf multinational oil company ran out of water.
Meanwhile, the fire that razed the administrative block of the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation (RSNC), as well as the Engineering block of offices of the Silverbird Rhythm 93.7 FM, Port Harcourt destroyed property worth millions of naira.
It was gathered that the fire incident in the Tide building, which started at about 2.00 am destroyed files electronics and other important document.
The timely intervention of fire fighters from the State Fire Service, SPDC, and NAOC prevented the fire from spreading to other parts of the building.
The General Manager of RSNC, Mr. Celestine Ogolo, told newsmen that the fire may have been caused by an electrical fault from one of the appliances in the administrative building.
A staff of the of Rhythm FM, told Weekly Trust in confidence, that the fire started from the engineering section at about 12.04 am, but was prevented from spreading due to the combined efforts of staff who, were on night duty and fire fighters from the State Fire Service.