Nigeria: School Children Among 15 Killed in Lagos Explosion

Photo: This Day
At least 17 people died and scores of others suffered varying degrees of injuries in an explosion in Lagos on March 15, 2020.
16 March 2020
Lagos —
  • Father, mother, 2 sons die while going to church
  • School principal dead, 36 students, 19 adults admitted at Navy Hospital
  • Over 200 persons displaced, 50 houses destroyed remote cause - NEMA, LASEMA
  • Buhari, LASG, Akeredolu commiserate with victims, call for calm
  • NNPC blames gas cylinder explosion for Lagos blasts
  • Shuts down petrol pipeline, assures of steady fuel supply

At least, 15 persons died and several others injured in the early hours of yesterday in an explosion suspected to have been caused by gaseous substance at Ado Soba, Abule Ado, in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State.

Over 200 residents of Hyacinth Maduekwe and Chosen Streets, in Abule Ado community were rendered homeless by the blast.

Although Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, and National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, said they were still investigating the cause of the blast, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, was categorical that it was cylinder explosion.

The incident, it was gathered, occurred at about 8.45 am, and seriously damaged no fewer than 50 buildings.

Similarly, many students in a nearby girls' hostel belonging to Bethlehem International Catholic School were said to have sustained injuries and taken to hospital. Bethlehem Girls College is owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos.

The Principal of Bethlehem Girls School, Rev Sister Henrietta Alokha, reportedly died in the explosion on her way to the hospital.

The effect of the explosion which was felt as far as 15km away, reverberated and shook the foundations of many buildings across the state.

When Vanguard visited the scene of the explosion, residents and passers-by were seen scampering for safety, wailing.

However, there was conflicting reports as to the actual cause of the explosion.

Speculation had it that it was NNPC oil pipeline explosion, while others claimed it was a burst gas pipeline.

At press time, National Emergency Management Agency NEMA and Lagos State Emergency Management Authority, LASEMA, could not ascertain the actual cause of the explosion but said investigation was still on-going.

Father, mother, 2 sons killed

At about 4pm, NEMA said the casualty figure at the scene of the explosion was 15.

NEMA Acting Coordinator, Lagos Territorial Office, Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye, said: "A family of four who were on their way to church died in the explosion. The bodies of father, mother and two sons have been recovered."

In the wake of explosion, the state Fire Service said it was an "implosion" that occurred and not petroleum pipeline explosion.

A traditional ruler in the area and Baale of Shoba Community, Jimoh Raheem, told Vanguard that he suspected that a bomb might have been responsible for the explosion.

"What happened here this morning (yesterday) could only be caused by a bomb explosion. Very early this morning, some residents said they saw some flashes of flame at a particular spot in the area.

"Moments after their observation, the entire area exploded, with houses and vehicles destroyed. People as far as Badagry reportedly heard the explosion. Unless the NNPC has a better explanation of what happened, we believe this is a bomb explosion," he said.

Eye witness accounts

A civil defense operative, who witnessed the blast, told Vanguard at the scene: "I can swear with my life this is no pipeline explosion. It is a time bomb planted in different locations around this community.

"I have seen lots of pipeline explosions but I haven't seen anything like this. The sound woke me up in my house at Abule Ado. Can't you see that these vehicles were not burnt, they were squeezed by the impact of the explosion."

Another eyewitness, Uzoma Phil, said: "I was in my house, down Abule Ado, when it happened. Sincerely I thought the world had come to an end because of the way everywhere was vibrating. Glasses of our building got shattered and the roofing sheets were destroyed. The government needs to investigate this explosion because this is a planned attack."

It was gathered that the Reverend father and Sisters at St. Joseph Catholic Church in the area, which was currently having Mass at the time of explosion, were rescued from the collapsed church building.

Unfortunately, Rev Sister Henrietta who is the Principal of the School died on the way to Navy Hospital.

A couple that was returning from church was also reportedly killed in the explosion. Lakeview Hotel, behind the church, was equally destroyed, among other properties.

The Lagos State Fire servicemen who first responded to the distress call, dispelled rumour of pipeline explosion, saying it was not connected with pipeline but buildings on Fire at Ado Soba, Abule Ado.

One of the victims, Ramat Bello, who had been rendered homeless, said: "I thank God that I am still alive. I sustained these (pointing to the spot) injuries during the explosion. I was inside my apartment preparing to go for family meeting when the entire building began to vibrate.

"The window glasses were flying everywhere. It was broken glasses that tore my legs. I was rushed to the hospital, while my neighbours helped park my properties.

"I don't have anywhere to go to. My rent is yet to expire before the incident. I am praying that the fire subsides so I can go inside and check if I can still sleep there for a couple of days before I can get a new place. These are my properties outside."

Another victim, Mr. Johnathan, narrated his ordeal: "I was in the church when the incident happened. Right now, I am moving my family and my belongings to the church. This is a burden on my side because this is unplanned expenses.

"As you can see, there are pipelines around this area, more effort needs to be put in by the government in terms of enforcement. People should also be prevented from buildings close to petroleum pipelines."

Oluchi, another victim who lives on Chosen Street, recounted her experience: "Right now, I am going to a friend's place in Coker, tomorrow I will come back and see if I can scavenge anything from my apartment as my electronics were burnt. The explosion removed the roof of my apartment, broke the windows."

55 injured victims rushed to Navy hospital

Meanwhile 55 persons with varying degrees of burns were rushed to the Nigerian Navy Reference Hospital Ojo.

36 of the injured were students of the affected schools, while 19 others were adults.

The Flag Officer, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Oladele Daji, who visited the scene of the explosion, as well as Bethlehem Girls College, disclosed that the impact of the explosion also had its toll on the Service's hospital, as part of its ceilings were damaged.

He said: "There was substantial damage done to the ceilings in the hospital. The hospital received and attended to casualties from the explosion site, as 55 persons were attended to.

"One of the adults had about 35 per cent mixed degree burns with inhalation injuries and pulmonary edema. He has been admitted into the Intensive Care Unit and connected to a ventilator.

"Seven other adults and two children are on admission in the wards. Two adults had Traumatic brain Injury and were referred to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, for neurosurgical intervention. The remaining 43 have been treated and discharged."

He said three persons, including two females and a male, were brought in dead.

Spokesman of the state fire service, Mr. Shakiru Amodu said: "Though, the effect was massive, the cause is yet to be determined. But I can tell you, it's not connected with NNPC pipeline. We have contacted authorities of NNPC to shut down supply through the nearby pipeline in the area which they obliged immediately in order to reduce possible incidents of carnage.

"We have five Fire engines, including the Federal Fire Service and all Lagos emergency responders on ground. The ripple effect of the implosion is far and wide but we are managing the situation from the base, while taking precautionary measure by shutting off NNPC petroleum pumping along the Atlas Cove - South West Lines via NNPC Mosimi Depot, please stay calm."

Emergency responders at the scene included NEMA, LASEMA, Federal and state fire services, Police, Lagos Neigbourhood Safety Corps, LNSC, Lagos State Ambulances Service, LASAMBUS, among others.

The Acting Coordinator, Lagos Territorial Office, Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye, said: "From the information given by officials of Lagos State Fire Service, the explosion is not connected with pipeline but might have occurred in a factory located in the Abule Ado area.

"Emergency responders are on ground, we hope to get more information soon to ascertain its cause."

Also, Director-General of LASEMA, Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintiolu, confirmed at about 3pm that about 13 bodies were recovered and while efforts were on to rescue others. At about 5 pm, two more bodies were later recovered.

The bodies, according to Osanyintiolu, have been deposited at various public mortuaries, while several injured victims were currently receiving medical attention, some due to shock.

According to the LASEMA boss, the remote and immediate cause of the explosion is yet to be ascertained as investigation are on going to determine the cause.

In the confusion, the Executive Chairman of Amuwo Odofin Local Government, Engr. Valentine Buraimoh, sustained injuries at the scene of the explosion.

Buraimoh was said to have sustained the injuries on his leg in the course of embarking on - the- spot assessment at the scene.

He was in the company of his vice and other stakeholders when the incident happened but was given first aid on the spot.

However, he said the explosion was not caused by human vandalism but what he described as "technical mishap" along the NNPC pipeline channels.

"I want to commend the efforts of all the emergency and disaster agencies for responding promptly to the unfortunate situation as Lagos State is on top of it," he said.

NNPC reacts

Reacting to the blast last night, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, said the explosion occurred after a truck hit some gas cylinders stacked in a gas processing plant located near the corporation's system 2B Pipeline Right of Way.

In a statement in Abuja, the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of the NNPC, Dr. Kennie Obateru, stated that following the report of the explosion, the corporation quickly halted ongoing pumping operations on the Atlas Cove-Mosimi pipeline which was active at the time.

He noted that the temporary shutdown of the critical System 2B pipeline, would not affect the supply of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, also known as petrol, across the country.

Obateru explained that the NNPC had already mobilized its in-house combined team, consisting of Health, Safety, Environment experts, medical and security personnel from its nearby Satellite Depot in Lagos, even as Lagos State Fire Service was also rallied to extinguish the fire.

He added that more firefighting personnel and equipment were mobillised from the NNPC Mosimi Area Office to provide extra fillip to the ongoing operation.

The newly appointed spokesperson of the NNPC explained that preliminary findings indicated that the impact of the explosion was so huge that it led to the collapse of nearby houses and damaged NNPC pipeline on which efforts were being made to curtail the resultant fire.

He added that the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari, and other top management of the corporation departed for Lagos yesterday evening for an on-the-spot assessment at the scene of the incident.

While appealing to members of the public and residents of the affected communities to remain calm, the NNPC's spokesman assured that the temporary shutdown of the petroleum products pipeline would not affect fuel supply.

LASG reacts

Reacting to the development, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotosho, while commiserating with victims, urged residents to stay calm, saying government was already investigating the cause, with a view to preventing a recurrence.

"As soon as investigation is concluded, we shall make it public in due course. We just want to appeal to residents in this time of grief to be calm and allow relevant authorities conduct their work without any hindrance. The state government is really touched by this unfortunate incident."

Akeredolu condoles with Sanwo Olu, victims.

Meanwhile, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, has expressed his condolences to the government and the people of Lagos State over the explosions that resulted in the death of an unconfirmed number of persons.

A statement by his Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo, in Akure, said Akeredolu specifically sympathized with his Lagos counterpart, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, affected victims, relations and well wishers.

The statement read: "Without prejudice to the outcome of a possible probe into this unfortunate incident, the loss of several lives and valuable assets to such an incident calls for deeper introspection, caution and endless vigilance.

"Sad occurrences of this nature, especially avoidable ones, can only be stemmed by our relentless and conscious efforts devoid of status.

"To my brother governor, Babajide, the good people of Lagos State and, indeed, victims as well as those who lost their loved ones and properties, the prayers of the good people of Ondo State are with them at this crucial moment of grief."

Buhari condoles with families, victims of Lagos explosion

President Muhammadu Buhari, last night, commiserated with families who lost loved ones, and all those affected by the explosion in Lagos.

The President also condoled with the Lagos State government and all residents affected by the unfortunate incident, which left many dead, many others injured and destroyed properties.

President Buhari in a statement signed by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu said: "I have received with sadness the news of this unfortunate incident which caused loss of lives and property.

"A misfortune of whatever scale anywhere is a tragedy to the country, and while the NNPC makes efforts to determine the cause of the incident, I send my deepest and profound sympathy to the victims, their families, government and people of Lagos State."

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