A fuel tanker exploded yesterday on the Festac Town Link Bridge in Amuwo Odofin, Local Government Area of Lagos State, wounding two persons and destroying 21 vehicles.
Five motorcycles and many bags were also destroyed in the fire.
The injured are Kenneth Odogwu, and one Olumide, who was said to have passed out after inhaling fume.
Eighteen of the vehicles were said to have just been imported by a dealer, Chinedu Nwafor, who displayed them in his shop beside the bridge.
It was gathered that an articulated red tanker, bearing 33,000 litres of diesel, was ascending the bridge from First Avenue when it lost track, detached from its truck and fell on its side.
The tanker was said to be coming from Apple Junction and going to FESTAC Town.
According to witnesses, the fuel tanker rolled backward, fell and spilled all its content on the road.
The tanker, a witness said, caught fire when a bus driver attempted to reverse upon sighting it.
Another witness, Mohammed Zango, who is a motorcyclist, said: “It was around 12pm. The tanker was climbing the bridge but before we knew it, it started going back. It seems the tanker could not climb. Then, it fell and petrol (diesel) was pouring out of it.
“The closest vehicle to the tanker was a bus. The bus was carrying foodstuffs and a woman was the one driving it. As soon as she saw the tanker spilling petrol, she started her engine and made to reverse. That was when the explosion occurred.
“The woman could not even come out of her vehicle. It was some of my brothers that assisted her out. The fire jumped from her car and caught a bus carrying bread on the other side of the road.
“Then from the tanker, the fire entered the car shop and burnt so many vehicles to ashes. A man who was inside a Nissan car was burnt on his leg.
“Another man, an area boy, who was assisting the car shop owner to move some vehicles, fainted. He was rushed to the hospital. The fire was too much. People just abandoned their motorcycles and fled. We did not even know when the driver escaped. I did not see him.”
A distraught Nwafor told reporters that he was still in shock over the disaster, adding that by the time he heard the explosion and rushed out, nine of his vehicles were already in flame.
He said fire fighters, who rushed to the scene, neither had water nor extinguisher.
Nwafor said: “I was here. I do not know the exact time but we were discussing. We heard a vehicle rolling back and we screamed. We started rushing out to know what the cause was but before we got to the gate, we heard an explosion.
“We started rushing to remove our cars. I lost 18 vehicles in all including a lorry. Outside the gate, nine of my vehicles were burnt to ashes. Inside here, I lost a Honda CRV, Pathfinder, Toyota 4Runner, Highlander, RX330 and a lorry.
“Honestly, I cannot give you the cost of the losses because I have not even itemised them yet. We are still very shocked at the whole incident. We have some vehicles that are up to N11 million, others about N7.5 million. I can tell you roughly that we have lost about N80 million to this fire.
“It is a pity that things are still happening the way they are in this country. If government had lived up to expectation, I am sure that these tankers should not be plying this road. That truck that rolled back is not supposed to be on the road in the first place. I blame the government for not doing its job. This is an avoidable incident.
“I also believe that the driver who drove that tanker was inexperienced. He would have controlled the vehicle and stopped it from entering here if he had experience. If he knew what he was doing, the truck wouldn’t have fallen.
“See how we are losing almost all we have laboured for in life at this crucial time. It is quite unfortunate. We started having tankers passing on the bridge recently. During the tenure of the former local government chairman, there was restriction on the bridge and they were not passing.
“I do not know why those barriers were removed in the first place. This bridge is too slopy for heavy duty vehicles to pass on.
“Then the fire service did not help matters at all. They were contacted but they did not come early. Even when they eventually got here, they could not do anything because their fire truck was too old and they didn’t have water.
“If they had acted at the time they got here, some of these vehicles would have been saved. I saw on television how Lagos State Government was sharing vehicles to some local government areas. I do not know what happened to Amuwo Odofin.
Counting his loss, the bag seller, Charles, said: “During the former chairman’s tenure, tankers did not climb this bridge but because of corruption in our society, they have allowed the trucks to be passing. See the losses they have caused me.
“A tipper carrying sand finds it difficult to climb this bridge talk more of tanker. I have lost bags worth about N4.5 million. All burnt to ashes. Something must be done about this incident’’.
Amuwo Odofin Local Government Chairman Valentine Buraimoh, who was at the scene, said the tanker owners would be held liable for the losses.
He promised that the iron bars on the link bridge would be returned to stop heavy duty vehicles from taking the road.
Buraimoh said: “I have gone round and seen the extent of damage done. I sympathise with those affected. I am also here to take stock of damages so that I can do a letter to the governor to notify him.
“I have gotten in touch with the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Festac and asked for the vehicle registration number of the truck. I want to believe that the owners have insurance that would offset the great losses incurred.
“We are thankful that no casualty was recorded. It is highly unfortunate. I was on my way to Ikeja when I was called and I turned back to this place.
“I called 767 when I was told and they confirmed that they had been told and they had sent firefighting gadgets. I learnt the fire also burnt under the bridge.
“It is quite unfortunate that the firefighting gadgets of the state did not get here early as a result of proximity. This is why Amuwo Odofin deserves an equipped emergency station to take care of Amuwo, Ojo and Ifelodun, rather than calling the responders from far distance since we know the traffic situation we have in Lagos.
“I believe the Lagos State Government that pronounced restriction on trucks ought to have enforcement. There should be an enforcement of the law to prevent things like this. We must take enforcement of laws seriously.
“Also, residents are not helping matters. Most times, they forcefully remove barricades placed on the bridges to restrict trucks. As we speak, I have called the engineer who did the previous barricades to return them.
“I am appealing to the people to remain calm. We would do our best to ensure that this matter is followed to logical conclusion. We would address it with all sense of seriousness so that these losses can be compensated.”
Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) General Manager Adesina Tiamiyu said the tanker was carrying diesel, adding that it detached from its truck and fell on its side.
He said :“It later exploded due to an aftermath ignition of a commuter bus. No life was lost but one adult male sustained minor injury. The combined effort of emergency responders including the LASEMA Response Team, police, firefighters and Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps (LNSC) aided in containing the fire around 2:20pm. The explosion affected 21 vehicles- 18 cars and three commuter buses, as well as five bikes.