Six victims out of the 13 rescued by the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) during July 4 pipeline explosion fire at Ijegun, Igando/Ikotun Local Council Development Area, Lagos State, have died.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that this brings the number of deaths from the pipeline explosion in the Lagos suburb to 10.
On July 4, there was a pipeline explosion at Ijegun, Lagos State, which necessitated residents living several kilometres away from the fire point at the Isheri community and Kudeyibu Estate to scamper from their homes in panic, as the flames escalated and spread close to a gas station in the area.
The inferno, which claimed two lives on the spot as well as destroyed several houses and properties, also left 13 casualties.
The casualties were rescued by the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), which took them to the Igando General Hospital for first aid and later to the Gbagada General Hospital.
The hospital could not accommodate the victims for lack of space, which made them move the victims to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) for prompt attention.
However, a NAN correspondent who visited the homes of some of the victims discovered that in spite of efforts to save their lives at LASUTH, the first two died on Friday, July 5, while four others died on Saturday, July 6.
Veronica Odogwu, a sister-in-law to one of the victims, Nnabuife Emerokwem, told NAN that her in-law struggled to survive but eventually succumbed to death in spite of all medical attention.
Mrs Odogwu, who is an experienced nurse said: “My late brother-in-law died in the early hours of Saturday because the burns were of high degree, which led to swelling in his head.
“As soon as LASEMA brought my in-law, alongside other victims, from the Igando General Hospital where they were given some first aid to LASUTH, they gave a long list of urgent drugs and apparatus we needed.
“At first, we tried to complain because we were told that all medical expenses would be taken care of, but the state of our victims did not allow us go into that kind of argument.
“As I speak to you, we spent over N60,000, trying to rescue my brother-in-law who was caught up in his Volvo car, while driving past by the side of the Catholic Church.
“We were made to pay or provide those things for treatment,” she said.
Mrs Odogwu told NAN that her late brother-in-law was caught up in the explosion because he was behind the bus driver whose car exploded while trying to start the engine of his bus.
According to her, the late Mr Emorokwem, a father of three children, could not escape the fire because he was trapped between the bus and another car, which was why he ran out immediately, with the burns.
“He did not meet his end immediately because he ran out and started calling out for help; but the driver of the bus and a security agent jumped into the canal close by, not knowing it was already filled with fuel,” she told NAN.
She said it was unfortunate that some families lost their loved ones at LASUTH because they could not meet up with the medical expenses and requirements from the hospital.
According to her, the hospital refused to release the body of her brother-in-law because they said an autopsy must be carried out on him.
“So, we intend to move him to the village after the exercise,” she said.
Meanwhile, when NAN visited another family whose members were casualties of the explosion, their house was locked.
The family of 12, who lost their father, mother and first son, lived beside a canal within the area where the explosion occurred.
A close neighbour, Kamoli Kareem, who also witnessed the fire explosion, told NAN that the fire flowed down the canal between 5 a.m. and 5:20 a.m. after a loud explosion was heard.
“Myself and my family were still asleep when I heard a loud blast.
“I came out to see a fast flowing fire in the very wide canal that was witnessing erosion and we luckily escaped through the kitchen door.
“The family of 12 had locked their windows and doors and so did not hear the alarm.
“As soon as the fire got to their flat, it enveloped their house and there was no place for escape,” he told to NAN.
He said that the bodies of the father, mother and a son, which were returned from the hospital on Sunday, had been taken away for burial, while two other members of that family were still in the hospital.
Mr Kareem urged the government to properly reconstruct the canal as the erosion was already cutting into their homes, a reason the fire got into homes.
NAN also visited the home of another set of victims, a woman and mother.
However, the house was deserted. The outside door was open and a burnt mattress, which the victim was on, were the things seen.
Other tenants living close to the canal had yet to return for fear of another explosion as the smell of the fuel was still heavy in the environment.
When NAN contacted the officials of LASUTH to ascertain the state of health of the remaining casualties in the hospital, they declined to give an update, saying “investigations are still ongoing”.
NAN reports that the July 4, 2019 fire explosion which occurred at the “Fire Junction” bus stop in Ijegun, affected parts of the Ijegun Community Primary and High Schools, the Catholic Church fence, and other buildings.
It was caused by undisclosed pipeline vandals who tried to scoop fuel from the pipeline, according to reliable sources.
The vandals had already escaped with over 10 tankers and were trying to move another when the pipeline exploded and fuel spilt down the canal.
The said canal, which was kilometres away from the tanker, was already filled with fuel and so caught fire beside the Catholic Church when an LT bus driver tried to start the engine of the bus.
Two men, along with over 30 vehicles, houses and properties worth billions of Naira were lost as a result of the explosion.
This is in spite of the prompt response from the Lagos State Fire Service and reinforcements from other stations in the metropolis, as well as emergency personnel from the LASEMA and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
NAN reports that a similar inferno had occurred in May 2008, where several people, including school children, as well as houses and properties worth millions of Naira were also lost.
Hence, there is an urgent need to increase efforts to tighten security and go tougher on pipeline vandalism.