Sanwo-Olu talks tough on gas facilities, regrets explosion
An early morning gas explosion in the Baruwa area of the densely populated Ipaja metropolis, Lagos State, has left at least five persons dead.
This is coming some weeks and months after gas explosions claimed lives and destroyed property in Ajao Estate, Abule-Ado, and Iju/Ajuwon, a border community between Lagos and Ogun states.
According to the Lagos State Fire & Rescue Service, five persons were confirmed dead and property worth millions of naira destroyed as firemen battled the explosion.
Mrs. Margaret Adeseye, Ag. Head, Lagos State Fire & Rescue Service, gave this account at the scene. She said the service received a distress alert at 5:50 a.m. on Thursday to Best Roof Gas Station, Baruwa, Ipaja.
“Immediately, firemen were deployed from Bolade and Agege fire stations to the scene. It was discovered that two gas trucks of various metric tonnes capacity at the gas plant were on fire. The raging fire, which had sporadically spread was eventually doused.”
She said it was suspected that a generator set was on while discharging of gas was ongoing within the premises.
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Mrs. Adeseye confirmed the death of five persons, eight persons were rescued with varying degrees of injuries, while 25 residential buildings were burnt. Other property destroyed included 15 shops, two gas trucks, one Dianna pick-up, one tricycle, one motorcycle, two gas dispenser pumps, one gas fix surface tank, and one (25kh) Mikado generator.
A resident of the area said the explosion started around 5:44 a.m. He said there was palpable fear in the area, especially as residents were apprehensive and confused.
“Thick smoke engulfed the whole area before emergency responders arrived the scene to restore some calm and battled to put out the wildfire, everybody was in a state of panic. Some people fled their homes almost naked and a man who died in the fire had already left home for work with his wife when he turned back to pick his certificates. He couldn’t make it out alive. ”
Some victims lamented the damage the explosion caused them. Many of them are traders who owned shops located close to the site of the explosion. A resident of the house nearest to the gas station, Mojeed Taiwo, told newsmen that he discovered the gas leakage when he stepped out to use the toilet around 4:00 a.m.
“I looked around and saw that everywhere was filled with gas fumes. I ran back inside to raise the alarm and call everybody to move out of the house because I didn’t know what could happen. We thank God that a lot of people were saved but I lost my mother to the fire. All of us standing here don’t have any clothes anymore but we thank God for our lives.”
A shop owner, Seyi Adeleke, who rents out musical instruments in one of the burnt shops, said he lost over N2 million worth of goods and gadgets to the fire.
“Somebody called me early this morning that there was a fire outbreak at Baruwa and that I should hurry over. My vehicle broke down on my way here last night so I passed the night at Toll Gate. If I had slept here, I probably would have died in the explosion too.”
Muhideen Oparinola, a barber and the treasurer of a cooperative society, lamented the late response of the fire service, saying they could have salvaged a lot of properties if they had arrived earlier.
“Cooperative money has burnt with my shop. I withdrew the money yesterday and kept it in my shop so I could deliver at the meeting later today. The money was over N300,000. Everything got burnt with my personal money. I almost got burnt to death too because I sleep in my shop. It was the spirit of God that woke me up early so I decided to go and call for prayer in the mosque. That was how I escaped the fire.”
While the fire raged uncontrollably, officials of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), other security agencies, and first-aid administrators arrived at the scene to recover bodies and rescue the injured.
Director-General of LASEMA, Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, said the agency quickly activated its emergency response plan and stormed the scene.
Also giving an update on the disaster, the Acting Coordinator, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Lagos Office, Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye, said the explosion occurred at Candos Road, Baruwa.
He said: “LPG tanker was in the process of discharging at the Best Roof Plant Station and the Station Generator was on. It was from there it was reported that the explosion erupted. The explosion threw the discharging tanker across the road.
“There are casualties, bodies have been recovered but search and recovery would be carried out after the emergency phase. Many buildings have been destroyed. The Best Roof Gas Plant Station is located in a densely populated community.”
MEANWHILE, the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has expressed regrets over the explosion, describing it as a sad memory in the life of the administration.
In a statement, yesterday, Sanwo-Olu said the preliminary and final reports on the cause of the explosion suggested negligence on the part of the gas plant operators, noting that the government would take stiffer measures against operators of gas plants and/or any combustible items in the state to avoid future recurrence of such disaster.
He said: “The gas explosion has left a sour taste in my mouth. It is a reminder of the dark episode of March this year at Abule Ado Soba when innocent lives were lost to gas explosions of monumental proportion and properties destroyed. I really can’t believe that we would witness another such incident no matter how little.
The governor restated his administration’s commitment to the safety of the lives and properties of Lagosians by ensuring that operators follow strict regulations in the operations of gas plants.
The governor said the Lagos State Safety Commission and the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency have been notified of the next line of action.