Lagos pipeline fire: Teenage victims recount harrowing experiences

A pipeline explosion, which happened on Sunday night at Eroko Road in Abule Egba area of Lagos State, left two people dead with many sustaining varying degrees of injury. Many trucks and houses were also burnt.

The yet to be identified under aged girl and her mother who died in the inferno were said to have been burnt while the mother was trying escape from the canal close to where they were standing. The time was 6pm and the skyhigh flames, which billowed from the areas where the explosion affected, sent many residents of the area scampering for safety. Children, some of whom were just returning from the after school lesson, were also thrown into confusion.

One of such children is a 13-year-old, who identified herself simply as Tope. She had left the venue of her lesson without any hint of what awaited her. As she got close to the street that leads to where she was going, Tope noticed people running from different directions for safety.

The confusion was such that no one was willing to explain what was happening. She had to join those running without knowing exactly where she was running to. Tope said: “I just saw people running in different directions with none willing to explain what was happening.

By then I was close to our street but the crowd was much and there was heavy smoke that filled the air, which was choking. I was with four of my friends at the time but we had to run in different directions because the situation was such that did not allow anyone to wait for a friend.

“I really didn’t know where I was running to but I had to run after some adults believing they would save me. In my mind I thought the situation was caused by the “area boys” in our vicinity, who often cause mayhem with little or no provocation. And because of the confusion, the adults I was running after didn’t even notice me.

I believe they were only concerned about their own safety. This was around 6.30pm. “When I discovered that many of them were residents in the neighbourhood, I had to follow one middle-age woman as if she was my mother. By the time she noticed I was following her, there was nothing she could do but to take me in.

When we settled in her house, she asked me some questions concerning my parents; where they live and the name of our street as well as our house number. She told me to sleep over till the following day to allow tension to die down, which I gladly accepted because I didn’t want to die.

“While all these were going on, I never remembered my parents, where they were or whether they were alive. My elder ones had all gone to school; I was the only one with my parents. I knew they would be worried but I was more concerned about my safety than seeing them.

When it was morning, the Good Samaritan had to escort me home and my aged parents were happy with her conduct as they prayed for her and her children. It was that morning that I was told what happened. Similar thing had happened before but not to this magnitude.

This last one was something else. I’m yet to resume at school because of the shock.” Tope was not the only child who had such a horrifying experience on that day. Oluwaseyi, a 15-year-old apprentice hairdresser, was also caught up in the fire commotion.

She was sent to buy hair attachments by her madam and couldn’t return to the shop till the following morning. But unlike Tope, she had to run back to her father’s house, which was in the opposite direction of where the pipeline exploded.

“The fire was much and it was like it would consume the whole area, so, I had to run back to my father’s house to escape being killed. By 9pm when the situation had died down a bit, my father had to call my madam to explain things to her. My Oga was happy that I took such initiative as she was very worried about my safety.

It was the following day I realised that the building housing our shop burnt down. I wonder what could have happened if I was with them in the shop at the time,” she said. Recounting her own experience, Onyeisi, 22, who lives on 4, Ahmed Sodiq Street, said she had just returned from work and was trying to take her shower when all of a sudden thick smoke enveloped the whole neighbourhood.

She had to run out of her compound half naked as she and other tenants tried to ascertain what was happening. “But the smell of fuel was so strong outside and was choking coupled with the billowing smoke, which caused an attack for me as I’m asthmatic. I almost passed out but for the kind attention of neighbours who rushed me out of the vicinity. They couldn’t take me to the nearby hospital because part of it was already on fire by then,” she said.

Elsewhere in the neighbourhood, the fire displaced about 150 residents, as 39 vehicles and 30 buildings were affected also. A woman of about 40 years of age, who claimed to be an orphan, with no husband, told Saturday Telegraph that she fends for herself without support from anyone.

She said the only property her parents left for her went with the fire. She said: “I don’t have anything again except God. Everything I have worked for, all gone. My brother’s landed property document got burnt also. Our building is far from the pipeline axis, it is only God who knows how the fire got here. “We have been complaining to the authorities about the illegal activities of vandals who come to burst pipelines and scoop fuel.

They were usually accompanied by either the police or the army and nobody dare challenge them. The authorities have refused to take positive action. Maybe, with this latest incident, the state government will take action to stem the illegal activities of these vandals.

They have constituted themselves into nuisance and operate with impunity with the support of their god-fathers,” she said. Another victim, who refused to be identified, said: “It was God that saved my household. My wife had already evacuated my children to a safe place if not they would have been consumed as well.

There is a canal that flows through the frontage of my house. The fire spread through the canal, which was flowing with spilled fuel and got to our house. As we speak now, my valuables, documents, certificates are all gone. I don’t know where to start from.” Also, the younger brother to the medical director of a popular hospital in the neighbourhood, which was alleged to have been burnt down, debunked what he called false narration by wicked people.

The young man, who declined to give his name, said before the fire got to where the hospital is, his brother had ordered the evacuation of patients and workers from the building. “We saw the fire coming through the canal and my brother asked us to evacuate everybody from the building.

He lives there but was also able to remove his valuables including the cars parked in the compound. It is not true that anybody died there. The fire only affected part of the building as you can see. “We perceived the smell of petroleum and sensed danger.

So, I joined others in the building to quickly evacuate the six parked vehicles and removed all valuables as we ran for safety. Unfortunately, part of the hospital was affected. Our neighbours’ buildings were razed.

This is not the first time such a thing will happen here, a similar incident occurred last year; we need functional fire services for emergencies such as this. “When the firefighters came initially, they tried but ran out of water; their response was very slow, they came more than three hours after the incident as the smell was first perceived around 3pm, which prompted the residents to put a call through to them. But they didn’t respond until after 6pm. This incident has become one too many in the neighbourhood,” he said.

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