By Nwabueze Okonkwo and Chimaobi Nwaiwu
THE BIAFRA TIMES
17th October 2019
Many people were trapped and feared dead, yesterday, while scores of persons sustained injuries in Onitsha, Anambra State, as a petrol-laden tanker lost control, crashed into Toronto Hospital at Upper Iweka, along Enugu-Onitsha Expressway and burst into flames.
The incident, which occurred at about 12 noon, is the second tanker accident at the same spot, that had claimed over 50 lives this year.
The latest victim among others, who lost their lives, was a pregnant woman and her three-year-old baby strapped to her back.
According to an eyewitness, the woman had escaped, but went back to her shop to rescue her money.
The source stated that the flames, which followed the flow of fuel in the drainage, touched wooden bridge to her shop and as she stepped on it on getting out of the shop, the wood caved in and she fell into the drainage with the child on her back.
Efforts to rescue her proved abortive, as the flames leaping out of the fuel-filled drainage scared off sympathisers.
The fire from the explosion also consumed about 40 buildings, affected over 500 lock-up shops along the Iweka Road Street Market and spread to Ochanja and Menax markets.
The incident, which sparked confusion among residents and traders, reportedly occurred when the tanker laden with petrol lost control opposite Toronto Hospital Onitsha, while descending Zik Roundabout end of Onitsha- Enugu Expressway and veered off the service lane, with the fuel tanker pulling off the truck head and spilling its content, which caught fire.
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Property and goods worth millions of naira were destroyed at Ochanja Market, while a commercial bank was also touched as the fire passed through New Auto Spare Parts Market, down to Iweka Road and to Emodi Street by Zik’s Avenue, burning all the shops along the road.
Trading activities were halted at Upper Iweka, Ochanaja, Iweka Road to Ozomagala Street, as traders shut abruptly with the flames surging higher, as the fuel flowed down the streets.
But for the intervention of youths, who climbed up three and four-storey buildings, the casualties would have been much as trapped old men, women, and children in most of the buildings were rescued before the ravaging fire caught up with them.
‘No fire station’
A resident, who spoke with Vanguard, said the fire started around 10a.m. and for the two hours the buildings were on fire, there was no fire-fighter around.
The resident added that none of the markets in Onitsha had any functional fire service station, as people watched helplessly as their houses, shops, goods, and flats got burnt.
Another eyewitness, Jude Okezie, said for the resilience and courage of some youths, some elderly people including children trapped in over 10 buildings, ranging from two, three to four-storey buildings along Iweka Road towards Ochanja Market, would have burnt to death as smoke almost suffocated them before rescue came their way.
There was mild drama at the scene when the youths, chanting anti-government slogans, forced two sewage tankers taking faeces to dump sites to assist in putting out the fire, but with little success as the fire continued to blaze towards Ochanja Market.
As the youths were chanting anti-government songs, a fire service vehicle, said to have come from Asaba, appeared with water, but the angry youths, thinking it was from Anambra State, started throwing stones at it, destroying the windscreens, making the driver and two occupants return to their base.
The crowd became uncontrollable as efforts to put out the fire manually continued with collection of water with buckets from a borehole on the street with a pastor, who owns a filling station, supplying detergents and fire extinguisher for the youths to put out the fire moving through the gutter.
At press time, many youths were seen putting up spirited efforts to put out the fire, with many throwing sachets of pure water into the heart of the fire in a futile, but desperate attempt to stop the inferno.
Some of the victims at Ochanja Market, Agbo Romijus, Fabian Onah and Jude Nnamani whose goods were completely gutted by fire, told Vanguard that the fire incident took them unawares.
They rained curses on men of the state fire service for not making any attempt to visit the scene with their equipment, even as at 6p.m.
According to them, they were sitting in their shops not expecting any danger when suddenly the flame burst forth in front of the shops and quickly spread into their shop from the wares displayed outside.
One said: “We lost everything we have laboured for in life. We are finished and no hope to overcome this incident.”
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Jude Nnamani, who was weeping uncontrollably, said: “All my goods were gutted by the fire. We are passionately appealing to Governor Willie Obiano to kindly come to our rescue because we have families and dependents and now we have no other hope.”
There is fear that more human casualties may be recorded following the number of buildings affected and their proximity to each other along the Iweka Road, leading to Ochanja Market.
Publisher: Charles Opanwa
Written by Ngozichukwu Ada-Dav
The gory details of the aftermath of the fire inferno in Onitsha, Anambra State, can leave the strongest man depressed. I was glued to my telephone gadgets all through, I refused to put down my phone for a second. It was the most terrific and horrifying incident in recent time.
The Fire outbreak which resulted from the fall of a Fuel Truck around Upper-Iweka, occurred about 12:45pm and ordinarily, one would expect that the state Government Fire Service should arrive within 30-60 minutes to save the situation but in this case, there was no sign of any Fire Service from Anambra State Government all through. It burned for over 12 hours, killing many people and destroyed properties and goods worth Billions of Naira.
This is not the first of such occurrence in Onitsha. Some two years back, there was a fire outbreak that gutted a Filling station at Awka road and just like what happened today, it raged for several hours without response until Delta State Government came to the rescue of the residents in the area. Any sensible Government should have planned from that incident of 2017 but No, the crop of Leaders we have in the Southeast are extremely callous and evil. They are very insensitive to the plight of the poor Masses that voted them into Office.
From the point where this truck fell, it gradually expanded over 2km in about 3:00 hours from Upper-Iweka down to Peace Mass Transit park and finally to Ochanja Market, where the biggest havoc happened and without any Government fire service intervention all through. Traders were trapped while trying to evacuate their goods. Goods and buildings razed down.
Like I earlier said, this is not the first of its kind in Anambra State but, I am particularly depressed because I saw the poor Masses turned Fire Fighters as necessity came calling. I was depressed because I saw the pain in their faces, the hopelessness, the bodies of victims turned ashes. I wept at the body of a nursing mother and her baby and I wondered how much effort she may have made to escape but fell with her baby. I saw my brothers, poor Masses throwing sachet water into an inferno so furious to the height of bringing down 3 storey buildings. I was so depressed watching those that ran to safety with every strength in them while holding tight to a piece of their goods like their life depended on it.
Today, I read from the social media that the Governor has promised to set up a panel of enquiry to unravel the root cause of the outbreak and compensate the victims but the sad reality of this carelessness by the Anambra State Government is that, there wouldn't be any kind of compensation to ease the pain of these depressed survivors from the various losses. The victim's families will not be mentioned. The Governor is only trying to calm nerves. He will never do nothing, like always.
I listened to Governor Obiano laying blames on the depressed survivors for his Government's inability to intervene because according to him, the angry mob didn't grant them access to the scene. He didn't end there, he also promised to assist in the burial of the nursing mother and her baby. This is the much you will hear from the Governor. The chapter has closed and lies upon lies. This is all you can get from these good for nothing Governors.
Ø This is the sad reality of a failed State of NIGERIA.
Ø A Nation with the most Corrupt Politicians in the world.
Ø A Nation that is not proactive in any matter.
Ø A State without a fire fighting Trucks and Personnel.
Ø A Nation where the lives of her citizens don't worth the life of a Cow.
Ø A Nation where people die in hundreds weekly from preventable incidences.
God save your people and grant us BIAFRA.
For: Lagos State Media
Lolo Oby Mboma
For: Lagos State Media
Chibuike John Nebeokike
For: Lagos State Media