It was pandemonium yesterday in the bursting commercial centre of Onitsha, Anambra State when residents took to their heels to escape a possible explosion immediately a tanker laden with Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) fell into a ditch along Enugu-Onitsha Expressway by Chipex Filling Station, spilling its content.
Thankfully, there was no explosion in yesterday’s incident. This is coming about three weeks after many lives were lost and buildings destroyed due to a fuel tanker fire at Upper Iweka Road in Onitsha, followed some days later by another fire disaster at Omagba, also in Onitsha.
Yesterday’s tanker fell into a ditch by Chipex Petroleum Station around Upper Iweka axis within Onitsha, the commercial hub of Anambra. As at the time of filing this report, the police have cordoned off the area while fire fighters were on stand-by in case of fire outbreak.
Mr. Emeka Obinwa, Executive Assistant to Governor Willie Obiano on State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) confirmed the incident to newsmen in Awka. Obinwa said PMS was spilling out from the tanker at the time of filing this report, but added that the highly inflammable substance had yet to catch fire.
“As we speak, there is no fire at the scene. Fire fighters are seriously working at the scene, pouring water to the tanker to prevent outbreak of fire,” he said.
Also, the police in Anambra yesterday issued a statement advising residents to stay clear of the area in order to prevent any disaster. SP Haruna Mohammed, the command’s Public Relations Officer, who signed the statement, said police patrol teams have cordoned off the area.
He added that the Commissioner of Police, Anambra, John Abang, had visited the scene where the tanker crashed into a gutter due to brake failure for on-the-spot assessment and to prevent a repeat of recent explosion.
Mohammed said the tanker, which was coming from Benin was heading to Enugu with the product before the accident on Thursday afternoon.
Meanwhile, members of the panel on Ochanja Market fire headed by the deputy governor, Dr. Nkem Okeke, visited victims of the incident at various hospitals, where they are currently receiving treatment. The places visited are the Toronto Hospital, Onitsha and the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, Oba.
Speaking on behalf of the panel after the visit, the Executive Director, State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Cy Agupugo, who doubled as secretary of the panel, assured the victims of the state’s readiness to come to their aid.
Dr. Mark Ibelechi of Toronto Hospital who received the panel members lauded the panel for visiting the victims, noting that they were responding to treatment and gradually recovering as some of them had since been discharged.
A victim, Mrs. Angela Agbo at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, narrated her ordeal to the panel and how she survived the inferno. She said: “When I saw fire running through the gutter, I wanted to cross over the same gutter but fell into it.
“I had to pull myself up from the fire to run, but there was a fence there too, so I jumped over it to save myself. In the process, I broke my leg, but struggled to run to safety in spite of burns and broken leg.”
She expressed gratitude to the state government and the panel for visiting those of them affected by the disaster.