The Lagos State Government, yesterday, revealed that the death toll from last Thursday's, tanker explosion at Otedola Bridge end of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, increased to twelve with the death of another survivor.
During the unfortunate incident last Thursday, at least nine people died on the spot, while four survivors with different degrees of injury, were immediately, rushed to the hospital for treatment.
However, two victims later died weekend, before the latest casualty.
Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, who disclosed the latest death toll during a press briefing in Alausa, Ikeja, also announced the opening of a DNA sample collection centre to assist in identifying the bodies at the mortuary.
Idris added that the death toll increased due to the level of burns suffered by the victims, saying, some of them sustained 90 per cent degree of burns during the explosions.
Also yesterday, the Chief Medical Director, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, Professor Wale Oke, also disclosed that the State Government has taken over the treatment cost of victims.
But relatives of victims who are still receiving treatment , stated that they were yet to benefit from the free medical treatment, insisting that they were still buying drugs.
Dr. Jide Idris said: "At the close of emergency operations, we recorded 10 deaths, including a minor, who were all burnt beyond recognition and seven injured.
"Of the seven patients received at three of our hospitals, Accident and Emergency center at Toll gate, The Trauma and Burns Centre in Gbagada and Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, for prompt treatment, regrettably, we lost one few hours over the weekend because he suffered 90 percent degree of burns, increasing the number to 11.
"While still battling with the causalities figure, we were informed at the weekend that two persons, who suffered burns, were rushed to a private hospital in the state. Of these persons, one has died. And this increased the number of victims from the explosion to 12 persons," he said.
He, therefore, urged any private hospital that still has victim of the explosion in their custody to alert the state government for collation and treatment, saying, all patients in our hospitals are treated free."
Speaking on the decision of the state government to take over the treatment of the victims, the Chief Medical Director, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, Professor Wale Oke said: "The Gbagada burn centre is a Private Public Partnership, PPP, initiative. It was not supposed to run free. A lot of people do not understand that, when patients came in none of them paid any dime, admission was free, they were attended to immediately. Issues came up when materials got exhausted and we were not expecting a lot of people to come in at the same time and maybe one or two patients had to buy some things. Before that, the Commissioner had already called me to inform me that the government was going to take over the treatment that is part of what we are going to discuss with the ministry."
He further disclosed that Senator Gbenga Bareehu Ashafa representing the Lagos East Senatorial District donated N50, 000 each to the victims in the interim to mitigate the impact of the cost of treatment.
... opens DNA samples centre
For proper identification of bodies from the scene, the commissioner stressed that DNA sample centre would only collect samples from relations of victims and matched it with samples from the charred remains.
"In order for this to be done, we would be taking samples from relations in this order: Mother/father of victim, Child of victim, sibling of victim and victim's uncle or Aunt. And the centre would open 10am and 3pm between Monday and Friday."
... Pathologists begin autopsies
The commissioner said that pathologist would "commence the necessary autopsies on the victims starting from tomorrow (today).
"An estimate of about 2-3 weeks from the time the samples are received would be needed to complete the DNA process, results would be interpreted and bodies properly tagged. Thereafter, death certificates would be issued to the confirmed family members."
Corroborating Idris on DNA test, the Attorney General, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, said families of the victims had started submitting relevant samples to aid DNA test, saying: "I can confirm that today, families who lost their loved ones to the accident have started reporting at the Lagos State DNA Forensic Centre for submission of reference samples that would be used to identify victims."
Relatives of victims paying for drugs
Meanwhile, contrary to claims by the Lagos State Government that it had taken over the medical bills of victims of the tanker explosion , relatives of victims however claimed that they were still buying drugs.
Vanguard's investigation at the Gbagada General Hospital, revealed that each of the drugs bought by relatives of victims undergoing treatment ranged between N3,500 and N4,500.
As at yesterday afternoon, a woman whose husband suffered severe burnt was seen going to the pharmacy section to get drugs for her husband.
When asked, the woman who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: "We heard that the state government said it is paying the bills. But as I speak, I still bought drugs for my husband for N4,500 this afternoon.
"On the day he was brought here we spent N10,000 on drugs. My Pastor also paid for some drugs which totalled N7,000. Yesterday, (Sunday) we spent N12,000 on drugs and another for N5,000. Other people in the ward are also buying drugs. You can go and ask them yourself to find out."
Another relative who simply gave his name as Micheal, refused to speak with Vanguard on it. He simply asked " will you give me money to buy the drugs?"
Victims not buying drugs--Hospital
In a swift response, Coordinator of the Gbagada Burn Centre, Prof. Idowu Fadeyi debunked claims that victims were being charged for treatment, saying no patient had been asked to either buy consumables or pay for treatment.
He said: "The policy in Lagos State is that when you bring accident victims in, at the initial stage, we don't take money from them. We did not take money from them.
"I personally asked the victims at Gbagada if any of our personnel took money from them and the four in Gbagada said no. Only one said that by the time he was brought in to the hospital, we had already exhausted some of the items we were using on them and that his relation had to get some. I asked him, if they used what they procured for him and he said yes. The man is still in the ward and can still corroborate this.
"One of his relations was with him, when Senator Gbenga Bareehu Ashafa came to donate some money and his Personal Assistant also went to get some consumables for us. Right now, we are on top of it.
"One of them who even had surgery on Friday, did not pay for anything. The state government has taken over and will be ready to provide anything that we will require.
Continuing, Fadeyi who stated that the hospitals started receiving bodies as at 6pm Thursday, explained that two male victims who sustained extensive injury of about 50 per cent burns were now stable.
"Hopefully by tomorrow we will commence surgery for those that require surgery, and those that may not require surgery we will follow up in case their situation demands surgery," he said.
LASG set to prosecute driver, owner of ill-fated truck
Already, the state's Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem had at the weekend written to the CP to advise him on the relevant provisions of the law that could guide the ongoing investigation which would lead to possible prosecution.
Confirming receipt of the letter while briefing Government House correspondents after the Security Council Meeting chaired by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, the Commissioner of Police, Imohimi Edgal said investigations into the incident were ongoing, saying that government would not allow vehicles that pose serious danger to residents on the road.
"As regards investigation into the matter, it is in top gear. I have just received a letter from the office of the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice which stated very clearly charges which we are going to prefer against the driver and the owner of that tanker," he said.
He said government had already directed security agencies to intensify enforcement of relevant laws, especially the State Traffic Law, with a view to ensuring that the roads and highways in the state were safe for commuters to ply without any danger.
Edgal also urged residents to always refrain from converging on the scene of any accident of such magnitude as that of the unfortunate tanker fire incident, saying there could be secondary explosion which could lead to loss of lives.