No fewer than six persons were feared killed and a dozen others injured as fireworks explosion rocked Lagos Island yesterday.
The incident which affected three buildings located at Okoya/Ojogiwa, Lagos Island, Lagos, occurred at about 8am, even as the Lagos State Government dispelled rumours of terrorist attack on the state.
It was gathered that trouble started when a lock-up shop under one of the three buildings stocked with fireworks, popularly called 'bangers,' suddenly exploded and went up in flames. As a result of the explosion, the building and two others adjoining it collapsed.
Residents of the three buildings, who were still celebrating the Christmas festivity, were still in their beds when the explosions occurred. Scores of other residents were feared to be trapped in the debris of the collapsed buildings.
At press time, officials of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), fire service, police, Nigerian Security Civil and Defence Corps (NSCDC) and other security and rescue agencies had visited the scene for rescue operations.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), which confirmed the explosion through its spokesperson, Yushau A. Shuaib, explained that the explosion occurred from a building suspected to be a loaded with fireworks usually used during festive periods and a warehouse for storage of electrical items.
He said that "although the search and rescue officers had a hectic time to reach the densely populated area due to heavy traffic and crowds, other response agencies and volunteers mobilised were able to control the fire incidence in area with support from residents."
He further stated that the casualty figures were yet to be determined, but that some residents who were injured while helping to extinguish the fire had been taken to hospital for treatment.
So far, one human body burnt beyond recognition had been recovered from the rubble and at least 15 persons were treated for injuries sustained mostly from the stampede during the confusion.
Lagos explosion not caused by Boko Haram - LASG
Speaking on the development that had made many of the residents apprehensive, the Lagos State Governor Mr. Babatunde Fashola assured all residents of the state of their safety as they go about their normal businesses during the festive season.
Fashola, who spoke through his Special Adviser on Media Mr. Hakeem Bello, explained that the reported explosion on Lagos Island early yesterday morning was not caused by a bomb.
According to the governor, "There was a need to correct the impression created this morning by speculations that an explosion heard was as a result of a bomb planted in the Lagos Island neighbourhood."
He explained that the incident occurred in a warehouse used to store fireworks meant for sale this season at the Jankara Market, and that the nature of the materials resulted in a blaze which affected nearby buildings.
According to the Lagos State Emergency Management Authority (LASEMA) team led by Dr Oke Osanyintolu, the incident which took place on Ojo Giwa Street, in front of King Ado High School, Lagos Island, did not record many casualties.
He said the prompt response by his men and those of the Lagos State Fire Service helped to minimize the danger and rescue occupants.
Meanwhile, as eyewitness who gave his name as Williams Hitler told our correspondent that trouble started when a lock-up shop under one of the three buildings stocked with fireworks suddenly exploded and caught fire.
On the number of casualties, he said, "We have only seen one dead body, but most of the sale boys also sleep in the shops. We are afraid that they have perished in the explosion. We saw them yesterday but we have not seen them now. I pray they are still alive."
Fashola frowns at illegal importation of explosives into Nigeria
Meanwhile, Fashola expressed sadness over the illegal importation of explosives into the country, noting that this was endangering the lives of innocent Nigerians.
He said this when he visited the scene of the fire incident yesterday.
"It is unfortunate for the fire to occur. Government makes rules for the benefit of all, but some people choose to break the laws.
These explosives come into the country through entry points some people are supposed to watch. Yet, they allow such items that are regulated to come in. Must we do everything in the name of celebration? There must be safety considerations for people and the environment in anything we do," lamenting that "there have been too many fire incidences in recent time."
To avert such accidents, he advised that people keep both fuel and explosives far away from residential areas.
"Let us stop the dangerous business that can destroy lives and properties. Once there is an error, there would be a devastating effect.
"Sometimes, when you enforce the law strictly, some people regard the government as anti-poor. But see what had happened today; those people castigating the government policies are not here, but the poor are the ones suffering it," Fashola noted.