• Fuel tanker explodes in Rivers
• 3 die, 20 injured, 10 cars burnt, churches destroyed
From FEMI FOLARANMI, Yenagoa
Less than 24 hours after a fuel tanker explosion wreaked havoc in Lagos, three people were yesterday killed, while 20 others were injured and no fewer than 10 cars burnt, as a fuel-laden tanker fell and caught fire on East-West road, at Mbiama, in Ahoada West Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Also at Mbaima Park, several shops and houses, including two churches – Celestial Church of Christ and Flames of Glory – were burnt. Eyewitnesses told Saturday Sun that the tragedy occurred as the fuel tanker ran into a bad portion of the expressway and tumbled before catching fire. It was gathered that the tyres of the fuel tanker pulled out, as the driver attempted to avoid a bad spot caused by erosion on the road. This caused the tanker to sommersault and therefore, spilled its content on the road, causing a fire.
Madam Theresa, a resident of the area, blamed the accident on the bad condition of the East-West road, adding that most residents now run for dear lives whenever tankers get to their areas, as they are always afraid they may fall and cause disaster. “It was around 7am, as we just came out; we saw two tankers facing each other from the two ends of the road. The one facing Port Harcourt tried to dodge a pothole and one of the tyres pulled out causing it to tumble. When it fell, it did not catch fire immediately, but when it eventually caught fire it took about 20 minutes for it to wreak this havoc.”
Checks indicated that the Bayelsa State and Ahoada Fire Service personnel were promptly informed after the accident. It was gathered that while the Bayelsa State Fire Service vehicle broke down at Agudama and could not reach the scene of accident, the Ahoada Local Government Fire Service vehicle arrived late. Saturday Sun learnt that one of the casualties of the fuel fire was a widow identified as Susan, who could not escape when her shop was engulfed in fire. Two others who sustained first-degree burns and were rushed to the hospital later died. Others who were injured are receiving treatment in various hospitals.
Chairman of Ahoada West Local Government Area, Mr. Awori Miller, who visited the scene, described it as disheartening. He said that the casualty figure was low because people are now aware they should not move near a fuel tanker that falls. “This incident is sad. You can see for yourself the damage that has been caused. This is coming not too long after another tanker explosion at Okogbe.
But we thank God that the casualty is low because people are now aware of the danger of moving near a tanker that falls. We have seen the body of the woman that was said to have died as a result of the fire. When the police finished their report, they would release the body to the family. I have also directed that they should get the number of all those who have been taken to the various hospitals and clinics.
“You can see that this incident was caused by the bad state of the East-West road. This road is bad and the Federal Government does not want to do anything about it. We have shouted on this matter and the Federal Government is not listening. This road is very important to the economy of Nigeria, but it is being neglected.” At the time of filling this report, personnel of the National Emergency Management Agency were taking records of the damage caused by the fire. Also, a combined team of soldiers and armed policemen was around to prevent looting of goods and property.