On 28 July, about six people were feared dead, with scores of buildings and automobiles razed, after a fuel-laden tanker caught fire and exploded at a roundabout near the popular Ogbete Market in Enugu, capital of Enugu State. The Ogbete market is the largest market in the city.
Mr. Sikiru Raimi, Commandant, Enugu State Command of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), said the incident occurred when the tanker loaded with diesel lost control while negotiating the roundabout. Witnesses said the crash was followed by leakage of fuel from the tanker, operated by the Port Harcourt-based Shorelink Oil and Gas Services Company.
They said as the leaked fuel flowed into the barracks of the Enugu Central Police Station and some parts of the Ogbete market, the tanker driver raised alarm and ran to the police station to seek for help; one source said there was no immediate response, apparently as the police had no fire-prevention equipment. A short while later, the tanker exploded and went up in huge flames.
The Deputy Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Steven Ekpei, confirmed three people dead. But local residents and witnesses said apart from the three charred bodies recovered initially, the toll may be up to six. Over 20 buildings, housing officers of the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigeria Prisons Service, were burnt. About 10 cars and several motorcycles were also in ruins. As the fire also destroyed poles and cables of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), the company’s Principal Manager, Public Affairs, Mr Eseme Udo, said some facilities, including the Enugu Prisons, may run without electricity for some time.
Witnesses say personnel from the Enugu Fire Service, and their colleagues from other agencies like the NSCDC and Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), rallied to save the market and the police station from ruin. But they said fire-fighting vehicles could not get to some of the burning buildings as structures constructed without approvals blocked access routes. Some fire-fighters, injured while battling the inferno, were later rushed to Parklane Hospital.
Addressing reporters shortly after inspecting the scene of the accident, the Deputy Governor, Mr Sunday Onyebuchi, said the state government would do everything possible to minimise the damage from such accidents in future. He said as a first step, Governor Sullivan Chime had ordered the demolition and clearance of all illegal structures in the city, within the next two weeks.
He praised the Fire Service and other emergency agencies for their quick response to the incident and pledged the state government’s assistance to alleviate the suffering of the victims.