At 5 o’clock on Monday evening (local time) July 25, a National Nigerian Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) tanker loaded with diesel fuel caught fire along Agunlajika bus stop, Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Lagos State, but what could have been a major disaster was averted by the Lagos State Fire Service.
In a terrifying scene, the two men driving the tanker were burned beyond recognition immediately when it exploded in front of a mini-bus. A taxi car parked beside the pedestrian bridge was completely burned as well, while some shops and small traders along Cele under-bridge market had some of their goods destroyed by the fire as they ran for their lives.
The explosion and fire created gridlock traffic along the expressway. After some time, security personnel helped to control the flow of traffic.
Eyewitnesses report different events leading to the explosion. Solomon Akin, a meat vendor, said that the fire occurred when the tanker’s tire punctured and then triggered a sudden explosion. Another eyewitness said that the tanker driver “lost his brakes” while driving at high speed before being hit from the side by an another truck, which brought about the explosion.
Diesel fuel leaking from the tanker went straight into the underground gutter, and from there it spread across other areas of the market and nearby car park. However, eight Lagos State Fire Fighters were quick to respond to the challenge as they battled tooth and nail with the fire, despite heavy criticism of their poor response to fire outbreaks from an audience of passersby. It took about one hour for the fire fighters to get the fire under control.
At the scene of the explosion, emergency respondents present from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA), and the police maintained law and order.
Unfortunately, after spending just under three hours reporting from the scene of the fire, I was unable to speak to any volunteers or employees from the above agencies, to retrieve a statement or the details of the two men killed in the explosion; however it was amazing to see all the agencies swing into action to avert what could have been a far less controlled disaster.