. . . I Saw Victims Die – Witness
It least, seven persons were confirmed dead, while many others sustained varying degrees of injuries in a petrol tanker explosion that occurred at Amawbia Roundabout, Saturday, February 8. The incident happened at about 8:40pm, reports Ikeugonna Eleke, with additional report by Jude Atupulazi.
The Governor’s Lodge, the official residence of Governor Willie Obiano, was not also spared as the gate leading to the lodge was razed by fire, sending security men at their duty post at the time scampering to safety.
The fire disaster emanated from a petrol tanker that was negotiating the Amawbia Junction before it fell and exploded, with its contents spilling down the road and into the gutters and catching fire soon after.
Fides learnt that the tanker driver while negotiating the roundabout fell, with the tank at the back detaching from the head. The driver was however said to have driven away with the head of the tanker, leaving behind the tank which exploded after about five minutes. The fleeing driver was however soon arrested by security agents.
The Amawbia fire service post was not also spared as the fire tore through its building. Over nine Vehicles parked along the road, including several tricycles and some were not spared shops along the area.
The fire which also spread through a drainage channel to the back of the governor’s lodge where Obiano’s residence is situated, also gutted part of the wall but was unable to get into the compound.
Fides gathered that Obiano was also at the lodge then and that the fire had rattled him and security personnel, leading to frantic calls to safety officers to quell the fire.
Governor Obiano who visited the scene of the fire incident same Saturday night, confirmed that he was at home in the lodge when the fire broke and that he made several intervention calls to agencies to arrest the fire.
The governor said his government would stop tanker drivers from plying the Amawbia Roundabout, especially as the roundabout had proven to be too steep for certain articulated vehicles.
Meanwhile, the Anambra State Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, SP Haruna Mohammed, told Fides on Sunday Morning that as at then a total number of seven persons were certified dead and were at various hospitals. He said the only surviving victim was referred to Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, Nnewi and was admitted at the intensive care unit.
He said, ‘Out of the seven corpses confirmed dead, three are deposited at Amaku General Hospital Morgue, two at Regina Caeli Hospital and another two at Piston Hospital Morgue for post-mortem examination.’
As at Sunday morning, the area was besieged by sympathizers and victims, most of who came either to inspect their charred vehicles or to ascertain the level of destruction on their houses and shops.
Over 30 shops where razed, including all the wares inside.
A tricycle operator, Mr Sunday Ugwu said, ‘I was just driving through this road when the fire started yesterday night, so when I found out I could not escape with my Keke, I parked it and ran away, and it was burnt by the fire.’
Shop owners, whose shops, including their wares, were razed, were also seen at the site on Sunday morning crying profusely.
Meanwhile, another eye witness narrated to Fides how he and some others watched some of the trapped victims die.
According to him, the victims were in a one storied building behind the burning tanker, and this made it difficult for people to help them. ‘At first no one knew there were people there until the fire subsided a little. Then some of us risked the fire and crossed the gutter and went to the building to try and rescue them. One of them outside was already dead.
‘Three were taken out from the building, all badly burnt, with one dead and the other two gasping for breath and barely moving,’ he said, adding that the heat from the burning tanker badly affected them and that they died shortly after.
He said the victims’ case was worsened by the late arrival of fire fighting vehicles and that even when they got there, they had exhausted their water.
He decried what he called poor safety management which he described as zero. According to him, nobody stopped people from milling around the area and those that they tried to rescue were carried in the wrong manner.