Mile 2 Tanker fire | I saw people being roasted like animals – Union chief


One week after a 33, 000-litre fuel tanker fell and exploded at Mile 2 area of Lagos, the dust and emotion the tragedy raised have not settled. Indeed, transport stakeholders are still talking about it, while victims are counting their losses.

 The petrol-laden tanker, with registration number XB370ATN, which was heading to Oshodi, from Orile axis, fell on its side that early morning. The spilled content exploded and caught fire.
 Investigation showed that the lorry lost one of its tyres and in the process, the driver swerved into a pothole and the vehicle fell. Three people, Kazeem Gbadamosi, Saheed Ajetumobi and Ayinla Taoreed Alade, a father of two, were burnt to death in the ensuing fire. About 39 vehicles were razed.

 Checks revealed that two of the victims, Gbadamosi and Ajetumobi, who stayed at Iyana Iba, off Lagos-Badagry expressway, closed for the day job, but could not go home due to traffic jam. The duo decided to pass the night inside their vehicles at the motor park. But they did not know that death was imminent that night.

Saturday Sun learnt that when the fire started at 1am, the victims were asleep and could not help themselves. They were burnt in their vehicles, among the thirty-nine vehicles destroyed by the inferno.
 It was learnt that many people, especially the inter-state transporters, who leave Lagos early, were among those sleeping at the park when the inferno happened.
 Speaking with Saturday Sun on the tragedy, General Secretary of the National Union of Road Transporters Workers, Amuwo Odofin Branch, Lagos State Council, Alhaji Bola Hassan, expressed shock. He narrated how the incident roasted the victims beyond recognition.
 “The incident was terrible. We were surprised to have witnessed it. Three of our members lost their lives. In fact, I was shocked to have seen human beings roasted like animals. It was really a disaster,” he said.
 He blamed the incident on the carelessness of the tanker driver.

 “How did he make such a big mistake? Everyone that plies the road knows that there is a big pothole on that spot and when they get there, they dodge it, but he foolishly and carelessly entered the supposed visible pothole which later resulted into loss of lives and damage of yet to be assessed property,” he said.
 The NURTW scribe said that about 39 vehicles at the park burnt. “The burnt vehicles, included two new Hummer buses and an ambulance belonging to a private medical practitioner in Lagos.”
 Hassan stated that immediately the incident happened, government officials from the Lagos State Ministry of Health came to the scene to see things and promised to return to assess the level of damage.
 “The Lagos State government officials came and assured us that they would assess the extent of damage. But after waiting for some days without hearing from them, we decided to follow it up with a letter. There after, they scheduled an appointment with us,” he said.

 He expressed optimism that outcome of the proposed meeting would be favourable to all the victims of the fire. “We hope that the government would do something positive to the families of the deceased as well as those whose vehicles were destroyed by the fire,” he said.
 We learnt that many of the commercial drivers, who parked their vehicles after close of work on the day of the incident returned following day to find the remains of their sources of livelihood.
 A driver with one transport company at the area attempted jumping into his burning bus, for which he took a loan of N2.8million to purchase. A total of eight Toyota Hiace mini buses, estimated at N6 million were among the burnt vehicles. Also burnt were two Space wagons, eight LT buses, a towing vehicle and 16 salon cars.

 Meanwhile, some commuters who spoke on the incident blamed the inability of government to repair the pothole that has been lingering for years. According to Steve, a commercial bus driver: “No one should blame the tanker driver because anyone could have slipped into that pothole. Rather they should repair that spot. I do not know why government had to wait for accidents of such to happen before they could do what is right. I heard that the tanker driver ran away. In fact, I do not blame the tanker driver for running away because he would have been thrown into the fire.” He pointed that out no right thinking person would come up to say that he owns the truck. Because the damage was too much.”
 Describing the incident as unfortunate, another danfo driver, Olushola Yekini, said the late Kazeem was a hard working and dedicated person, who refused to get involved in illegal activities to make ends meet.
By CHIOMA IGBOKWE and GILBERT EKEZIE
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