SUNNEWS — They flooded the place. I tried to stop them but they did not listen to me. At that time the drivers of the tanker and the bus were quarelling with each other. The bus driver later ran away, shortly after that, the tanker exploded. The explosion sounded like an earthquake.
No fewer than 100 persons were burnt to death yesterday at Okobie, in Ahoada West, Rivers State, as they rushed to scoop fuel from a tanker which overturned, after involvement in an accident. The incident occurred at about 7:30am.
More than 20 people sustained injuries and were rushed to Ahoada General Hospital for treatment. Daily Sun learnt that two of them later died at the time of filing this report. Fears were being expressed that the figure of dead might rise due to the serious nature of the injuries sustained. When newsmen visited Ahoada General Hospital, the Chief Medical Director, doctors and other health workers, were seen putting in their best to save the lives of victims.
Besides the gory sight of bodies which littered the scene of the accident, burnt motorcycles belonging to some of the victims were also seen.
According to an eyewitness, the driver of the tanker was trying to avoid two vehicles, a commercial bus and a Toyota Corolla with Lagos number RQ218 AAA that were involved in an accident near an Oando Filing Station, and in the process, veered off the controversial pothole-ridden East West Road and overturned.
As the residents of communities heard about the accident and the tanker spilling its fuel cargo, they quickly went for their jerry cans, mounted their motorcycles and rushed to the scene to scoop the highly inflammable product.
As the scooping was going on, the tanker exploded and went up in flames, catching them unawares. Attempts by some of them to escape, by trying to remove their clothes was futile, as they were consumed by the inferno. None of the victims near the ditch where they were scooping the petroleum product that accumulated there escaped, as their bodies were glued to one another.
When Daily Sun visited the scene, policemen, soldiers, members of Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Fire Service men, health workers, among others, were on hand to render one form of assistance or the other.
Speaking to Daily Sun, the South-South zonal Co-ordinator of NEMA, Mr. Umesi Emenike regretted that people still went to the scene of a fallen petrol tanker, to scoop, despite the inherent danger. He wondered while anyone could scoop fuel at the expense of their life. He, however, commended all the stakeholders for rising up to the occasion, but advised the Rivers State Government to decentralise the Fire Service for quick intervention in such fire tragedy. One of the sympathizers and a mother, Mrs. Joan Osoh, told the reporter that she was depressed and dumbfounded, after seeing what was left of the victims.
She, advised people to stop the risk of scooping fuel for pittance. According to her, people should be contented with what they have. She also advised parents to always teach their children not to look for cheap money.
Mrs. Osoh also had a word of advice for the government: “Government should try and provide jobs and create enabling environment for the citizens. It is because of hunger that some of them get involved in things like this,” she said. When contacted, Governor Chibuike Amaechi’s spokesman, Mr. David Iyofor, said the governor was devastated by the news of the tragic incident.
“Governor Amaechi has to cancel his official engagement in Abuja to rush down to the scene of the incident. As we speak, the governor is waiting to board a flight to Port Harcourt, so that he can visit the scene and console the families of the victims,” Iyofor said.