Horrific, this eight-letter word best captures the situation on the ever-busy Mobolaji Bank-Anthony Way, Ikeja, Lagos, on Thursday, June 17, when a gas tanker explosion occurred around the Ogun State Property Investment Corporation (OPIC) Plaza during which five persons lost their lives. More than 25 vehicles were burnt. Several other persons also sustained varying degrees of injuries in the inferno.
The explosion that occurred in the front of the Plaza caused a gridlock which stretched to Maryland and crippled vehicular activities on the busy road as the burning tanker blocked the road. Road users spent hours trying to navigate to alternative roads. Many people who sustained serious injuries were rushed to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) and Gbagada General Hospital for further treatment. While reading its preliminary report on the incident, the Director-General of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Dr Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu said the fire that trailed the leakage from a moving cooking gas truck came from the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant located at the OPIC Plaza, where other offices were equally burnt.
He said the inferno from the explosion resulted in severe damage to the building’s structure. “Close investigation revealed that the leaking cooking gas from the truck was ignited by the exposed fire from the kitchen of the New Chinese Restaurant inside OPIC Plaza. As a result of wind action, the whole area of the OPIC structure was engulfed with fire.
The fire trailed the cooking gas resulting in the combustion of the gas tanker outside the compound,” he said. Likewise, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said the gas tanker had exploded while in motion at about 10.32 p.m. on Thursday night. Acting Zonal Coordinator, South-West Zonal Office, NEMA, Ibrahim Farinloye said the resulting fire affected the OPIC Plaza beside the Sheraton Hotel, which houses different commercial outfits. He said: “We have so far recovered three bodies from the incident. The bodies were recovered from the generator house of OPIC Plaza and the restaurant.”
As the LASEMA, Lagos State Fire Service and NEMA battled to put out the fire, Sheraton Hotel also deployed its fire fighting equipment to assist in quenching the fire. According to the hotel, the efforts of its engineering department helped in protecting the hotel from the inferno.
However, despite the efforts of the five-star hotel in containing the conflagration, there were reports on the social media and online platforms that the unfortunate incident affected the hotel, leading to evacuation of guests. But the Group Managing Director of Ikeja Hotel Plc., owners of Sheraton Hotel, Theo Eniola Netufo told New Telegraph that it was only the flowers and trees along the fence of the hotel with OPIC Plaza that were affected by the fire. Netufo said the hotel facility was safe, open and was operating as normal.
He wondered why some online platforms still attributed the fire outbreak to Sheraton even when it was crystal clear that the hotel was not involved. He said maybe some people actually wanted the hotel to be consumed. “In fact, they were carrying dead bodies and saying that our guests have been evacuated but that is not true. All our guests were safe.
They are just attacking the image of the company. We want to assure our customers that we will continue to deliver our first class service to them and we remain committed to our role as the leading hotel in the hospitality business in Nigeria. “In terms of service delivery, we are the leader. People may have big structures but when it comes to service we are number one in Nigeria.
No controversy about that. And when it comes to security and safety, we are also number one. If you forget anything in the restaurant, we will keep it for you and twenty-four-seven January to December we have all the security agents across all agencies in Sheraton,” he said. Netufo also urged corporate organisations and government agencies to always be ready for such incidents. He praised the hotel for deploying its fire fighting equipment to assist in putting off the fire.
He said this incident calls for emulation from other corporate organisations and even government agencies, saying everybody should be well prepared because this kind of incident will not be announced when it will occur. He said that there is a need for companies to be equipped in case of disasters because government emergency agencies may not respond quickly in some cases. He noted that if Sheraton had waited for the government the whole place may have been gutted down by the fire. According to Netufo, Sheraton deployed its fire fighting equipment to prevent the outbreak from affecting the facility, workers and guests. “And the hotel also offered assistance to quench the fire because that building would have been totally consumed if not that Sheraton deployed its equipment.” Likewise, the management of the hotel also confirmed that the incident did not affect the facility. In a statement made available to New Telegraph, the management said: “Our thoughts are with those seriously hurt by this incident, which happened on a nearby plot.
“At the sound of the blast, our guests and employees were moved to a safe location within the property, but there was no serious damage to the hotel building. The safety and security of our guests and employees is always our first priority and we thoroughly checked the building before clearing it for their return. The hotel remains open and operating as normal.” When contacted the management of OPIC Plaza referred this reporter to the reactions of Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun on the fire explosion. The governor had during his visit to the facility said the incident was avoidable if necessary safety precautions had been followed.
Abiodun called for extra safety measures to be put in place for the transport of liquefied petroleum gas across the country. He said this would check incessant explosions which had led to huge loss and lives and wanton destruction of property. “We must learn something from this incident, and the first thing is to begin to look at all these trucks carrying petroleum products. How can we ensure that they are safe for our roads? Can you imagine if this incident had happened while this truck was in the traffic, a rush-hour for that matter? Can you imagine the level of damage and casualties? “We must sit down with the management of the Department of Petroleum Resources to determine how we can introduce extra safety measures. Yes, we want to promote the penetration of LPG against the use of kerosene, but we cannot afford to do that at the expense of the safety of human lives.
So, my counterpart, Governor Jide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State and I will be having this discussion very soon,” he said. One can only pray that the governors are able to come up with some practicable solutions in order prevent such occurring again in the future.