Fire has destroyed property worth billions of naira in Rivers State after a tanker loaded with Automotive Gasoline Oil (AGO) rammed off the G.U. Ake dual carriage way in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the state and ditched into a flower garden.
The fire destroyed a church, Christ Living Miracle Church, a hotel, four shops, an event centre and a flower garden near Eliozu flyover on the G.U. Ake Road.
It was learnt that the tanker, which was trying to manoeuvre a bend on the road, had fallen into a flower garden along the road and exploded in flames.
The General Overseer of the affected church, Bumi Grace noted that the incident happened around 5a.m., yesterday, adding that none of the victims was able to save any of their belonging.
Grace said: “When the tanker fell and fire started, the electricity transformer close caught fire, exploded and the fire spread the more. Before fire fighters came, the fire had gone far.
“The incident will affect our service, but we must gather to worship God. What was destroyed here is over N300 million because we did not remove anything here.
“I was in the house when I received a call that my church is on fire. I got a vision of fire incident, and we organised a prayer and fasting. We finished prayers yesterday and this morning this thing happened.”
Also, one of the shop owners, Amaka Ugu disclosed that this is the third time tanker has fallen on that spot and called on the government for prompt attention.
“What I have lost is over a million naira, but my neighbour lost over N12 million because he just came back from market. He sells rugs.
“When I woke up somebody called me that another tanker had fallen. This is the third time tanker is falling here this year. The government has to do something about this.”
An event and catering centre worth over N500million was burnt by the fire.
According to an eyewitness, Master Jacob Nkem, the driver lost control and the tanker burst into flames.
However, it took the efforts of personnel of the Rivers State Fire Service and those of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) to bring the situation under control.
“This is not the first time a tanker carrying diesel has fallen in this area”, a taxi driver, Master Job, who plies the Air Force, Rumuokoro route stated.
“Three months ago, a tanker loaded with petroleum products lost control, somersaulted and burst into flames as buildings, cars and property were destroyed alongside the tanker.”
The taxi driver wondered why the drivers and conductors were not hurt in these two separate incidents.
He went further to state that the accident happened at the same hour and almost at the same place.
A middle-aged woman, who chose to remain anonymous, narrated how at about 5.00am, yesterday, a tanker rammed into her shop, and fire consumed all her property, including her academic certificates.
Reacting to the incident, the state Commissioner for Special Duties, Emeka Onowu regretted that the tanker accident was the third of such unfortunate incident at that same spot in three months, and promised to liaise with his counterpart in the Ministry of Works to construct speed breakers around the area to check over-speeding by motorists.
In his remarks, the state Commissioner for Works, Hon. Dumnamene Dekor, described the incident as sad and pathetic, adding that the accident was as a result of human error.
He said: “The incident would have been avoided. The damage is enormous. It would have been averted because I believe it occurred as a result of some human error.
“I have not ascertained the product, but from what we can see, it is a petroleum product because that is what can cause this level of damage.
“The incident has also damaged this road. We have lost over 200 metres of this road. The impact is so heavy. The only thing we need to do is that we will ensure that at this bend, we will ensure devices are built to make drivers reduce their speed on this roads.
“We will take certain steps to put this to a stop. We are encouraging every user of our road to apply caution. We appeal to those who have lost anything here to remain calm while everything will be addressed.”
The Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Council, Prince Solomon Abel Eke has described as most unfortunate the tanker explosion along Air Force/Eliozu Road which destroyed residential buildings and business concerns.
Eke, who stated this after visiting the scene of the incident, yesterday, appealed to drivers plying the route to be conscious when approaching the bend before the Eliozu over-head bridge.
The Obio/Akpor chairman, therefore, empathised with those affected by the tanker explosion, and prayed God to strengthen them.
Emeka Sabastine Igbe