It was a somber atmosphere on Friday across various communities affected by pipeline explosion that rocked Igando area of Lagos State early Thursday morning.
The explosion was said to have occurred after vandals ruptured the pipelines in the course of trying to steal petrol. Two people who were allegedly having spiritual bath in a river around the scene of the incident were reportedly burnt to death. The third person who narrowly survived but sustained 70 degree burns was conveyed to the General Hospital, Igando .
The confounded residents gathered in small groups discussing the wave of horror that swept through the area. Even though the fire incident had been brought under control, they were yet to come to terms with the level of destruction and setback the incident caused for them.
“Many of us couldn’t cook because we feared that lighting our cooking gases could spark fire because the smell of fuel enveloped the whole area. We had to be eating junks all day to avoid slumping after the initial shock we suffered early in the day. Some co-residents ran out of their houses wearing underwear. They didn’t even care that they were almost naked because safety was what was paramount in everybody’s mind,” a resident of Idowu Egba area affected by the incident said.
The President of Diamond Estate Residents Association, Olaniran Olusoji, also spoke about how some of the residents ran out naked leaving their children behind.
His words: “We just woke up in the morning and I actually was dressing up for work when we heard a big bang three times. The last one was like an earthquake and everybody had to run. We came out and saw heavy fire and had to run. But as the leader of the estate, I had to wait behind and coordinate activities. The fuel sipped down the canal and fire was ignited. The fire followed the path the fuel was moving and was heavy and just right behind us.
“There was pandemonium in the estate yesterday. People ran out naked forgetting their kids. It was later they remembered their children were at home. At the end of the day, we bless God that the fire came under control. It was very terrible. It is better imagined than experienced. There was no reported injury. Our security men on ground were able to handle the situation properly. There was no stealing or theft of any form. We were able to do our normal chores later in the day.”
Another resident, who identified herself simply as Esther, said the incident has affected their economic activities as it destroyed the bridges that connect them to other communities. “Our movements have been hampered as the wooden bridges that connect us to other communities were charred during the incident. Some of us couldn’t go to work. Many pupils who also use the bridges to get to their schools were also unable to go to school.”
For the managers of the pedestrian wooden bridges, the loss was massive and in two folds. Aside the huge damage the incident did to the bridge, they were also unable to get any revenue. Some of them stood at akimbo bemoaning the magnitude of the losses, while artisans made frantic efforts to reconstruct the bridges.
“The incident affected many people. Pupils that used to pass through here to go to work have been affected. We don’t collect a dime for them. It is our own way of assisting them,” one of the managers casually said while preventing our correspondent from taking pictures of the environment.
Some residents also relived the funny things they did when the incident occurred.
“I have never experienced such an explosion before in my life. The sound was thunderous and capable of causing untimely death for anybody suffering heart attack. In fact, if attempt had been made to check our blood pressure after the incident, many of us would have elevated pressure. The first thing I did was to carry my Bible to pray. My child was just screaming ‘mummy, mummy, mummy’ and together we started an unscheduled race. Coming out of the house, we saw a wall of blazing fire that was moving with the speed of light.
“Terror seized the whole community. Many people began to imagine the worst. Would the fire continue to spread and consume the whole place? Where would we go to if the fire ends up destroying our houses and valuables? So many rhetorical questions kept flying through my mind. It was also the same with others. Some even said they feared that the fire could catch up with them as they were running away and that would be the end,” a resident who gave her name as Biola said.
Another resident, who gave his name simply as Emma, said. “Immediately I heard the deafening bang, I ran into my car and drove to the expressway which was safe enough. On getting to the expressway, I saw several other residents in boxers, nickers and singlets. Some were still panting after running the race of their lives. We momentarily put aside the shock and started making jest of one another. Some of the females described us the males as cowards who couldn’t wait to confront the challenge.”
Speaking on what the estate is doing to put an end to the activities of vandals in the area, Diamond Estate Residents Association President, Olaniran Olusoji, said: “The previous administration before me did a lot of work in engaging NNPC, the Federal Ministry of the Environment, the Federal Housing Authourity who are the owners of the estate. The pipeline does not pass through the back of our estate.
“It is a bit far away from us. But over the years, the activities of vandals – breaking the pipes and the NNPC not responding early enough, a lot of fuel sipped down into the ground and it has affected the water under the soil. That is why when you dig borehole, you will see fuel coming out. We engaged the NNPC and they did some things for us; we have to acknowledge that.
“Before, they had been coming to drain the fuel, especially the one at the back of the estate. They have stopped that long time ago because we don’t hear anything from them anymore. That is what they have been doing to reduce the effect of the fuel.”
He further said: “From our own side of the estate, vandals cannot access our estate because it is a private estate that is privately run. The hoodlums that come to the back of the estate come there to scoop fuel but not from the pipeline. It is the fuel that is coming out from the ground that they are scooping. We always send they away because you don’t know when fire incident could happen. The main pipeline that was vandalised is very far away from us.
“We don’t have direct contact with the community where the pipeline is located. We always call the NNPC whenever we perceive a strong smell because it is a sign that something untoward is going on. When we notice that, sometimes we call the NNPC or the police to go and check the other side.”