The serene and peaceful environment of Segun Akinola Street, a sprawling community located at Awori Bus Stop, Abule Egba, Lagos gave way for tension, agony and unpremeditated pandemonium sequel to an out of the blues midnight eruption of a raging inferno that covered some kilometres in seconds, ruining volumes of properties as it festered.
To residents in the area, it was a day like every other day with people going about their daily businesses normally until later in the evening when some policemen, believed to have been drafted from the Oko Oba Police Station, swooped on the zone, arresting and harassing residents in the guise of carrying out a raid on the area.
The presence of the policemen was said to have led to several residents scurrying for safety, leaving human traffic and activities in the zone to give way for an eerie silence you get when human activities is forced to a close in a once bubbling arena.
The enforced tranquillity later paved way for unfettered illicit nocturnal activities that left bitter tales on the lips of Lagosians the morning after.
A metal kiosk stationed by a mechanic garage with an inscription ‘For Sale’, soon became a depot where trucks are being loaded with premium motor spirit (PMS), petrol, under the cover of the night.
A close view into the kiosk reveals a deep hole being dug by miscreants from which petrol is being scooped into waiting trucks for onward ferrying to destinations where it would be turned to money.
The well-like hole was dug to meet a pipeline which was forcefully broken by the vandals to intercept the flow of oil which they redirect through a pipe into the bellies of the waiting tankers.
But something cropped up, leading to a ravaging inferno that jolted the residents to life in the wee hour of the night.
Most of them, who were deep in sleep, only to be woken up by the terrific sound of the inferno, scurried for safety.
A sick father of two, whose name could not be ascertained at the time of filing this report, rushed out of home half naked to join the building human exodus from the area unto destinations unknown.
It was a pathetic sight, as the wife with her baby striped on her back, saw the seemingly lifeless body of her husband lying beside the highway around Abule Egba bus stop at about 9:30 am Wednesday. The desperate pleas of the helpless, sobbing woman attracted the sympathy of passers-by who rallied support for the dying man, poured cold water on him, until he regained consciousness.
From the bunkering spot at Segun Akinola Street at Awori bus stop down to the Abattoir side on Agege road, it was weeping and gnashing of teeth for many traders who closed businesses Tuesday only to come back the following morning to meet their shops in ruins.
A major car dealer at the Abule Egba end suffered the most as close to twenty exotic cars went up in flames and burnt to arshes.
Several structures, shops and stalls were also torched as the inferno spread towards Agege, leaving behind ruins and damages.
Many transporters who closed late and left their vehicles parked along the inferno track all suffered several degrees of loss as trucks, cars and tricycles parked on the unfortunate track all went up in flame.
Pipeline explosion has become a very tragic accident in Nigeria that when it happens, many families mourn, as houses, cars and lives are lost.
It was gathered that men of the fire service arrived in few trucks hours after the fire incident which destroyed many properties in the area.
Vandalisation of petroleum pipelines is a major cause of pipeline fire disasters. However, except the number of deaths recorded, little information of the effects of such disasters on the environment is often reported in developing countries, and post-disaster remediation process is thus usually unmonitored or ineffective
It will be recalled that during the night of 25 December 2006, at about 1:00 a m, leakages occurred in the petroleum products pipelines at same Abule-Egba, Lagos.
It was gathered that while people were scooping fuel leaking out of the pipes, the fumes ignited and a fire explosion occurred, leading to several loss of lives and properties.
The 2006 incident killed hundreds of people. There was initial rumour of about 500 deaths, but it was later confirmed that the loss was far less in number.
There was another version to the 2016 story that the incident occurred after an elevated pipeline carrying petroleum products was punctured by vandals earlier at midnight. This attracted hundreds of scavengers in the district who scooped the fuel using plastic containers, allegedly to siphon fuel into a tanker before puddles of fallen fuel were ignited after dawn.
The cause of the explosion has remained unknown, while witnesses have stated that the broken pipeline was tapped when the blast occurred.
The number of people killed is unclear, but is evidenced to be in the hundreds.
Abiodun Orebiyi, the secretary-general of the Nigeria Red Cross (NRC), then estimated that there were at least 200 dead but indicated that there was no official death toll and was unable to determine the final number of deaths, stating that the NRC “[doesn’t] know if it is 300, 400 or 500”
He also added that 60 people were taken to the hospital with serious burns, while a number of houses were destroyed, along with a mosque and a church.
Another senior official, Ige Oladimeji, was quoted as saying that there have been 260 documented to be dead by nightfall.
On the day of the explosion, a Reuter’s news agency photographer estimated 500 bodies in the scene
In the current incident, it was gathered that no fewer than 38 vehicles and 71 houses and shops were burnt.
By Gboyega Adeoye