It was a black Sunday in Lagos as multiple explosions killed no fewer than 17 persons.
A family of four – the father, the mother and their two boys — and a Reverend Sister are among the dead.
Many others were feared trapped underneath burning or collapsed buildings in Abule Ado, a suburb of the commercial city in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area.
Acting Coordinator of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in Lagos Mr Ibrahim Farinloye said the couple and their two sons were caught by the explosion on their way to church.
No fewer than 62 pople, including pupils of a girls boarding Catholic secondary school were injured and taken to hospitals.
The principal of the school Rev. Sis. Henrietta Alokha, died after rescuing all the pupils. Another priest who was conducting Sunday mass for the pupils was injured.
About 50 houses are affected, many of them destroyed completely.
Many vehicles were ruined by the explosions which magnitude was said to be comparable to the January 2002 Ikeja Cantonment bomb blast.
The huge bang that accompanied the explosions shook houses in FESTAC town, Okota, Surulere and as far as Ilasamaja – many kilometres away from the scene of blast.
As of 4.30 pm, some pupils of the Bethlehem Catholic Girls’ College were still feared trapped in the rubble of their hostel buildings.
Many occupants of some of the damaged houses on about six streets were also feared trapped.
Affected were buildings inside the Trade Fair Complex, located about one kilometre away where hundreds of vehicles parked at a mechanic village were destroyed.
The cause of the blast remained in the realm of speculation, because of its magnitude.
The Director-General, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Dr Olufemi Oke-Osayintolu, said “the cause is unknown”
The NEMA coordinator said: “We are going to find out what really happened. I have been to so many blasts scenes, especially Maiduguri and I can tell you that I do not know if a single bomb can have this kind of effect we have seen here. Not even an IED can.
“It is during post emergency phase that we will know what happened here. From the information gathered, the truck was carrying score stone and the truck was about 1t metres away from the pipeline.
“We also gathered that the blast was heard before the fire broke out. If it was pipeline fire, it should be the other way round. That is why anti-bomb squads have been invited.”
But the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said: the explosion was “as a result of gas explosion which occurred after a truck hit some gas cylinders stacked in a gas processing plant located near the corporation’s system 2B Pipeline Right of Way.”
Farinloye said 17 bodies, including those of the family of four, had been recovered.
According to him, over 50 buildings, including Bethlehem Girls College and a popular hotel, were damaged
He said: “The resulting fire later spread to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) oil pipeline passing through the area even though the pipeline has been shut down as a precautionary measure.
“The fire was eventually extinguished about 3.30p.m. through the combined efforts of officials of the Lagos State Fire Service, Federal Fire Service and Nigerian Navy Fire Tender.”
Also, Rear Admiral Oladele Daji, Staff Officer, Western Naval Command, told newsmen that the pupils were stabilised at the Navy Hospital.
Daji said although the cause of the incident was still unknown, some residents of the area told security operatives that there was a large number of industrial gas cylinders close to where the explosion occurred.
He said the Navy in collaboration with other security agencies had begun clearing the pipeline right of way across Lagos State, adding that the government should revoke the Certificate of Occupancy of houses built very close to pipelines.
Dr Oke-Osayintolu added that the government would carry out a thorough investigation to unravel the cause of the explosion.
“Our advice to people is that there is no need to panic. We are on top of the situation and the fire has been put out through collaboration by the various agencies.
“We can neither smell gas nor petrol; we can’t really say this is what led to the fire.
“We are still waiting for the outcome of the result to know the cause of the fire outbreak,” Oke-Osanyintolu said.
“The fire was eventually extinguished about 3.30p.m. through the combined efforts of officials of the Lagos State Fire Service, Federal Fire Service and Nigerian Navy Fire Tender.
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“The DG later issued a statement in which he said that “the primary cause of the explosion is unknown.”
‘There were a number of secondary explosions which have caused significant damage to multiple buildings, including the leveling of a church to ground zero and the destruction of St Margaret’s girls hostel.
“The causes are yet to be determined while security agents are investigating the cause of the explosion and recovery and rescue activities were carried by the Ministry of Special Duties, LASEMA men of the Lagos State fire service crew, Federal fire service department, Safety Commiission, LABSCA and other first responders.
Seventeen bodies have been recovered while 25 casualties are being treated for injuries on site.
“We sympathise with the families of the dead and wish the injured quick recovery. We appeal for calm and urge residents to shun fake news.”
Speaking to reporters at the scene, Commissioner for Special Duties Taiwo Martins appealed for calm so that rescuers could do their jobs effectively.
“I will like to tell Lagosians to stop this habit of gathering where there is emergency. People should stop turning it into sight seeing and taking photographs and all that. Basically, we are on top of the situation. We are going to access the damage. The moment the fire is gone totally, we will begin investigation and we will be able to come up with the cause.
“We will continue awareness and advocacy on our people to desist from harmful practices. We are appealing to our people; there are certain habits they just have to stop.
“The first thing is to allay the fears of the people. Yes, it was an explosion that was heard but an explosion does not necessarily have to be a bomb like people are saying. Nobody has done investigation to confirm it is a bomb. We will look into all possibilities; we are not going to ignore any possibility but then when you have pipes or gas it can explode and may cause such effects. But at the end of the day, we will be able to ascertain what it is that really caused it.
“Fears of people trapped are speculations. What I can tell you is that LASEMA has confirmed some bodies were recovered and some people rescued.
“Those figures are figures we must ascertain before giving out. Then, once the fire is down and we are sure the place is safe, all these places are going to be taken down and if there are still bodies there, we will confirm it but to the best of my knowledge I am not sure.
“We have a responsible government.
Similar incidents like this have happened and Lagos state Government has never abandoned the people,”
The Nation correspondents observed many fire trucks from the Navy, Nigerian Air Force (NAF), Federal and Lagos State Fire services at the scene combating the inferno from various points.
Anti-bomb squads of the Nigeria Police and the Navy were seen picking samples from the scene for investigation while operatives of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS), Satelitte and nearby divisions battled to control the crowd that became riotous when the corpses of a family of four were recovered from a car parked in one of the damaged houses.
Several houses and cars in about six streets including Customs, Linus and Shoba with many occupants still feared trapped in them.
The Nation gathered that residents made tremendous efforts at the initial stage to evacuate most of the pupils through Zone 7 before fire gutted part of the school. They were said to have rushed at least 60 injured persons to the Navy Reference Hospital in Ojo, while several others were taken to a hospital inside Festac
One of the victims of the incident, Mr Abayomi Abeyi, said his building was severely damaged while his wife sustained injuries from the explosion.
Abeyi, who is the Chairman, National Union of Road Transport Workers, Mile 2, Amuwo Odofin Branch, appealed to the Lagos State Government to come to the aid of the victims of the unfortunate incident
The chairman Mechanic Village Automibile Association, Trade Fair, Mohammed Muritala, confirmed that over 2,500 vehicles, six of their buildings and three ovens were damaged.
Muritala said each of the destroyed oven was worth over 10million, adding that he was thankful the incident occurred on a Sunday, otherwise, the casualty would have been massive.
Commander Rapid Response Squad (RRS) DCP Tunji Disu, said over 400 policemen deployed in the scene arrested two people for looting.
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