Emma Elekwa, Onitsha
A woman and her baby were feared dead while no fewer that 40 buildings, ranging from two- storey to four- storey buildings were razed in a tanker explosion in Upper Iweka, Onitsha, Anambra state.
Over 500 lock- up shops were also gutted by the fire along the Iweka street market leading to Ochanja and Menax market .
The incident was said to have started when a tanker laden with Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, otherwise known as petrol, descending from the Zik’s roundabout end of Onitsha -Enugu expressway, lost control around Toronto Hospital and veered off the service lane.
The tanker’s head reportedly fell off and went up in flames after spilling its content within the area.
Over 30 private and government owned transport companies, including Luxury bus operators along the area were lucky to have escaped being caught by the fire.
the woman carrying her baby reportedly tried to jump out of her shop, but mistakenly stepped on slippery object and fell into the gutter raging with fire.
Luck was not on her side however as she could not be rescued following the inferno that covered the entire area.
Residents, including old men, women and children in most of the building were trapped as youths had to climb up to three to four- storey buildings to rescue them before the fire, which was fast moving from one building to another caught up with them.
An eye witness said the fire started at about 10 am, regretting there was no presence of fire service men at the scene, including the ones in the markets in Onitsha and Local Government.
“You can see people looking helplessly as their houses, shops, goods and flats burning down with fire. If not for the courage of some youths, some elderly men and women including children trapped in over ten buildings ranging from two to four storey buildings along Iweka road would have perished in the fire as smokes almost suffocated them before they were rescued,” he said.
The was however a mild drama when two toilet drilling tankers on their way to dumpsites were forced by angry youths in the area to use the faeces, mixed with water, it to put off the fire.
Efforts were still ongoing to prevent the fire from escalating as at the time of filling the report.
The Police Command confirmed the death of the woman and her child in the Onitsha tanker inferno.
The spokesperson, Haruna Mohammed, said the woman and her child were burnt beyond recognition, adding that their remains had been deposited in a nearby morgue.
The statement reads in part,” Today (Wednesday) at about a trailer loaded with petroleum product lost control at upper iweka, on the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway, Onitsha and crashed inside a pavement in between the expressway.
“As a result, the fire spilled over through the gutter and affected many shops and houses.
“The Commissioner of Police John Abang visited the scene for on the spot assessment and appealed to the residents to remain calm.
“Fire Service department was equally contacted.
“A yet- to- be identified woman and her baby caught up by the inferno and burnt beyond recognition were rushed to Toronto hospital but certified dead by a medical doctor while receiving treatment.”
Mohammed said a police patrol teams had cordoned off the area to prevent hoodlums from taking advantage of the situation to loot while effort was ongoing to put off the fire.
He said the command was investigating the case to ascertain circumstances surrounding the incident.