It was a horrible tale as victims and property owners recounted their losses after a tanker loaded with Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly known as petrol, ran into a flour garden on G.U.-Ake road, Eliozu, in Obio-Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State before exploding.
The fire razed a hotel, churches, one of which is Christ Living Miracle Church, and shops among others.
Officials of Rivers State Fire Service were the first to arrive the scene, which engulfed the entire event and catering centre worth over N500 million.
The explosion caused severe gridlock as many people rushing to their various places of work were left stranded.
The petroleum tanker explosion, which is the second in less than four months around the same spot, burnt down houses, cars, and churches located within the immediate vicinity.
An eyewitness, Mr. Godspower Ndukwe, narrated that the tanker driver was on high speed when it tried to maneuver a bend in the area but lost control and fell into a flour garden on the road. It immediately exploded after crashing.
He said: “When the tanker fell and fire erupted, the electricity transformer close to the scene caught fire and exploded also.
The fire spread very fast and destroyed a lot of property before fire fighters arrived.”
General Overseer of Christ Living Miracle Church, Bumi Grace, said the incident happened at about 6:00a.m. yesterday, lamenting that none of the victims were able to save any of their belongings.
“The incident will affect our service, but we must gather to worship God.
What was destroyed here is worth over N300 million because we did not remove anything here.
I was at home 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 programme.
We finished prayers yesterday and this morning, this incident happened.”
Emeka Chinagoro, one of the shop-owners grieved that the incident makes it the third time a tanker had fallen at the same spot.
He lamented that no serious action had been taken by government or relevant agencies to address the menace.
He, however, called on the government for prompt attention to prevent another disaster.
“Government must be proactive to the safety of lives and property of its citizens.
What I have lost is over N1 million, but my neighbour lost over N12 million because he just came back from market. He sells rugs.”
Meanwhile, the Commissioner of Works Rivers State, Dum Dekor, described the incident as sad and pathetic, adding that the accident was due to 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 meters of this road. The impact is so heavy.
The only thing we need to do is to ensure that at this bend, devices are built to make drivers reduce their speed on this road.
“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, everything will be addressed,” he assured.
In another development, att least three persons have been killed and one kidnapped by gunmen around Woji community in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers.
The victims are reportedly two police officers and a civilian driver in a convoy of a foreigner, who was later abducted by the bandits.
Eyewitness account said the kidnappers ambushed the convoy within Akom road in Woji community in Obio/Akpor area, shot and killed the policemen and the driver.
The witness, Rachel Reginald, said the gunmen later succeeded in kidnapping their target, after releasing sporadic gunshots in the incident, which happened at about 9:47p.m. on Wednesday.
This is happening barely 12 days after two soldiers, a policeman and a driver were also killed at Abua Local Government Area of the state, while trying to prevent the kidnap of an expatriate, although their target narrowly escaped.
According to Reginald, two passers-by sustained bullet wounds in the incident that lasted less than 15 minutes.
Spokesman of the State Police Command, Nnamdi Omoni, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), when contacted, confirmed the death of two policemen, adding that a victim is recuperating in the hospital.
Omoni, however, denied that somebody was abducted, regretting the armed men carried out surprise attack on the police team.