Barely a day after a fire outbreak razed a sawmill market at Ipaja Road in Lagos, another fire disaster at the Cement Bus-stop along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway involving a tanker laden with 33,000 litres of petrol, has left 15 persons death and several others with varying degrees of injuries.
The inferno, which started at about 11p.m on Tuesday, was finally put off at about 1a.m. by a deluge of fire servicemen and rescue operators who thronged the scene of the accident minutes after it happened.
According to an eyewitness report, the tanker had somersaulted while trying to avoid the huge craters on the road and then exploded from the impact of the crash.
All attempts by the combined team of fire fighters from the Federal and State Fire Service, Capital Oil, Julius Berger and Swift Oil, to limit the effect of the inferno proved abortive as it spread rapidly, engulfing over 50 shops including banks, shops and residential buildings. Asides the buildings that were razed, the fire also burnt over 20 cars as well as goods and properties running into millions of naira.
While attempts were on to put off out the fire, THISDAY gathered that emergency rescue operators also put up a valiant effort to rescue persons who were trapped in the buildings in the path of the fire.
Although they successfully rescued about six persons from the flames, however, no fewer than 15 persons were brought out dead and had since been deposited at the Yaba General Hospital by the police.
The rescue workers had after hours of excavation, brought out nine badly burnt persons but as at press time, six other persons were found inside the burnt tanker as it was about to be towed away, bringing the casaulty figure to 15.
Confirming the incident, the Public Relations Officer, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), South-west Zone, Ibrahim Farinloye, said the dead were deposited at the hospital while the injured were given first aid treatment before being taken to the hospital. He said: "The explosion involved a petrol tanker which later spread to four houses and four commercial buses which were all burnt.
"The petrol tanker laden with 33,000 litres of PMS somersaulted and caught fire, claiming lives and destroying vehicles and buildings.
"At the end of our assessment of damages caused by the inferno, a total of 54 shops including banks, shops and a total of 12 makeshift shops were razed down."
Also, the General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, said some of the victims were burnt beyond recognition. He said upon arrival, the agency took stock of what happened and took charge by carrying out emergency and rescue services, adding that an assessment would be carried out to get a comprehensive outlook of the incident.
While commending the seamless collaboration of rescue operators, the Director of Fire Service, Lagos State, Mr Rasak Fadipe, said the fire was brought under control because of the partnership.
He added that three commuter buses, over 30 spare parts shops with goods worth millions of naira were lost in the inferno despite attempts of the fire service.
Pegging the cost of their loss at N100million, the President of Berger Business Community, Mr. Okey Udeagba, said asides loosing such huge amount, they further incurred additional loss yesterday because they could not sell.
He said, "The traders affected by the inferno lost millions of naira in terms of properties and goods and our loss was further increased due to our inability to open our shops for commercial activities.
"I am dumbfounded at this is a monumental loss. We are pleading with the government and corporate bodies to come to the aid of the traders because just in one incident, we lost about one hundred million naira."
A trader who spoke to THISDAY simply identified as Mr. Onyeka Ononye, said they had lost so much to the fire because of the time frame at which it happened, adding that traders would have salvaged their goods if the fire had occurred during the day.