Amidst the burning flames, deaths, wailings of suffering victims whose skins suffered various degrees of burns from Monday September 10th gas explosion in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, some hoodlums took advantage to loot the property of innocent traders around the scene of the incident. DANJUMA JOSEPH (Lafia) reports the inside story of the sad incident.
Yearly, gas explosions have become a regular occurrence in Nigeria, especially in the urban centres where the use of gas for cooking is on the rise.
These explosions have sent many persons, especially younger generation, to their early graves, leaving their families and relations in pains.
The latest of such incidences occurred on Monday, 10th September, 2018 around 10am at MONACO Gas depot, inside NATSON filling station, at the popular Sandaji Hotel junction along the Jos road in the city of Lafia.
The incident sent jitters down the spine of the residents of Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, as people scampered for safety when the blaze from the explosion lit the city.
The ugly incident has never occurred in the history of the state, residents were seen scampering for safety in different directions, while others ran towards the direction of the explosion to catch a glimpse of the situation.
Hoodlums had a field day in some of the adjourning shops; they looted property worth millions of naira, while genuine sympathisers had their hands filled with humanitarian assistance, helping victims of the explosion to safety.
A shop owner, Mrs Alice Sambo, confirmed that hoodlums took advantage of the chaos that ensued after the explosion and looted some shops.
“Some of my neighbours and I escaped narrowly from our various shops. Government should take proactive measures to curtail future occurrence,” she advised.
LEADERSHIP Friday gathered that the remote cause of the explosion was as a result of leakage from the dispenser in the gas depot, resulting in a large quantity of propane gas hanging in the air.
The immediate cause of the inferno, it was gathered, was as a result of head-on collusion by a motorcycle and tricycle, which resulted in a spark.
LEADERSHIP Friday further gathered that the gas depot, had been managing the leakage for some days before the incident that fateful day.
An eyewitness said a tanker filled with the gas was off loading the product at the depot when the leakage started, so the workers ran for safety and alerted the men of the state fire service.
Another witness, Jacob Amos, said, “We were inside an office when we heard an explosion and we rushed out to see what it was about. We saw that there was a fire incident and some people were running as fire burnt them.
“A gas tanker that was parked at the premises of the station caused the fire. We were able to save some people; but a lot of people died.”
The eyewitness told our correspondent that he counted 15 corpses at the spot immediately the incident happened.
“I believe anybody that is driving a car or riding a bike has learned a lesson, because many people that lost their lives in that gas explosion did as a result of carelessness on the side of the drivers.
“The causalities would have been less if those drivers were patient for at least 10 minutes. All the same, as many will say, ‘that is the will of God,” another witness said.
LEADERSHIP Friday gathered that all the victims of the explosion were passers-by, because workers at the gas depot and filling station ran away, when they sensed danger.
Our correspondent reported that one tanker, eight cars, two tricycles and two motorcycles, got burnt to ashes in the inferno.
Operatives of the Nasarawa State Fire Service, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and the Nasarawa State Emergency Management Agency (NASEMA), were on ground trying to extinguish the inferno from spreading, while some of them evacuated the victims to Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital (DASH), Lafia.
At the DASH, a source hinted that over 30 persons with different degrees of injuries were brought into the emergency unit of the hospital.
The source disclosed that three persons, a man, woman and a baby, died in the hospital.
The public relations officer of Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital in Lafia, Deborah Dangara, confirmed that corpses and casualties from the explosion were brought to the hospital, but declined to give the number of deaths recorded until they get comprehensive reports.
Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, of Nasarawa State, during an assessment visit to the scene of the ugly incident described it as “unfortunate.”
“Last night, I got a report that six people died as a result of the burns sustained from the incident, but this morning, I was told that three more people had been confirmed dead.
“We were able to transfer 17 victims, who had over 60 per cent burns out of the 37 persons affected to the National Trauma Centre in Abuja, but three among them later died.
“Shortly before I arrived here, another child died while being removed from a pregnant mother, who also suffered severe burns.
“So, at the moment, we have recorded nine deaths as against the large figures being speculated in the media,” Al-Makura said.
He disclosed that the remaining 14 casualties currently at the National Trauma Centre, were responding to treatment.
“I have directed that all the victims be given the best treatment available and for those in critical condition, requiring to be moved abroad, the Nasarawa State government will take care of their bills just to ensure they live,” the governor said.
The governor called on residents of the state to obtain proper approval before siting their structures anywhere in the state in order to avert a repeat of such ugly occurrence.
“I have called for a meeting with the committee on development control for us to review approvals for siting all businesses that pose danger to the people, especially gas stations. We have agreed that existing stations must comply with the safe distance specifications,” he said.
Al-Makura condoled with the families of those who lost their lives, and assured that government would do its best to ensure that the survivors of the fire outbreak get the best of medical attention.
The explosion coincided with visit of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who was in the state on a campaign tour.
Saraki, spared time out of his tight schedules and visited the victims of the explosion at the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital (DASH), Lafia, where he described it as sympathetic.
Saraki lamented that the country was losing people that can add value to its development, expressing sadness at the tragic deaths.
“We will ensure security of lives and property through provision of basic infrastructures and amenities that can forestall incidents as ugly as the one we have just witnessed.
“I want to stress here that there is no amount of politics that should undermine the lives of fellow Nigerians,” Saraki said.
The Nasarawa State deputy governor, Silas Ali Agara, also visited the scene of the incident and DASH, where he wept profusely.
Agara, who couldn’t control his tears, said the state government was touched by the loss of lives and economic ruin suffered by these “hard working Nigerians striving to make a living through honest labour.”
On its part, the Nasarawa State House of Assembly said it would soon come up with a law that would stop gas activities within urban cities across the state.
The speaker of the House of Assembly, Ibrahim Balarabe Abdullahi, made this known when he led other members on an on the spot assessment to Monaco Gas Station, Lafia over the explosion.
The speaker also sympathised with the victims and prayed God to grant the soul of those who lost their lives eternal rest.
“We discovered that this morning, many lives were loss, properties were destroyed because of this unfortunate incident but to cut it short, I want to sympathise with families of those that lost their lives and also those that lost their properties, we are indeed very sorry for this very unfortunate incident,” he said.
The state police public relations officer, ASP Ismaila Usman, said the command had received a report on the incident, adding that the casualty figure was yet to be ascertained.
He said, “Investigation is still ongoing to ascertain the level of casualties.”
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