• Sunday, May 26, 2024
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Onne Eleme fuel tanker fire disaster: Tales of horror from inferno zone

Onne Eleme fuel tanker fire disaster: Tales of horror from inferno zone

Chigozie Odukwu looked at the time and it was several minutes after 7pm, Friday, April 26, 2024. He kicked his yellow Keke-Napep (tricycle taxi) to head to Refinery Junction in Eeme from Akpajo.

He ran into raw traffic chaos close to Indorama Gate. Soon, shouts of fire rang out and he ran. The next thing he found was fire surging towards his side.

Chigozie tried to save the tricycle he acquired just two weeks before, but the danger was too near. The next day, Saturday, April 27, 2024, he came round to look for what remains of his source of daily income, only to find that it has disappeared.

To this moment, a woman believed to be rich is still sitting on her steering, charred, in her SUV. Near her is the charred remains of a pregnant woman. An eye-witness narrated to those around how the man conveying her in a car found the inferno too dangerous and appealed to her to bale out. She allegedly said she would not be able to run. The man escaped. Those around said the bulging stomach exploded in the raging fire like a missile.

Another horrible account is that of occupants of a bus that look charred in the bus. No survivor, according to eye-witnesses.

Some four scavengers from the north were hurriedly throwing off their items in an open trailer to safety. This went on until the trailer exploded in fire and the young men ‘evaporated’ in the inferno. Their goods were saved, but they were not.

Relations of a man who seemed important came with sack to scrape up the charred remains of their relation.

Some managed to escape from their vehicles but not from the tongues of the inferno. Three men were seen burnt in the grasses as they tried to escape.

These are some of the tales of horror that dominated the area where BusinessDay team counted 60 vehicles and four tricycles. Other estimates said 70 vehicles were burnt.

The culprit truck that hit the tanker laden with PMS was still found beside the tanker. The tipping truck was said to be overtaking another truck, all heading from Port Harcourt to Onne.

The offending truck allegedly wheeled left to avoid hitting the rightful owner of the lane. At this point, its left fender hit the laden tanker which parked off the road by the left.

The impact cut open the back of the tank and fuel began to pour out and spread along the road toward the nearby river. Soon, fire sparked and set the scene ablaze.

The jampacked nature of the area as a result of construction (N33bn project to rescue the road to the wharf) has of late rendered that stretch of the East West Road chaotic. This short distance has been a headache for over 10 years, and many administrations in both Rivers State government and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) have carried out temporary interventions. This was so until the Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration (FG) took decisive action with the N33bn contract.

The result is a kind of construction job that seemed to have no traffic management component for such an already chaotic traffic zone. Now, this!

When BusinessDay visited the place before noon, the Eleme council chairman, Obarilomate Ollor, and team were seen inspecting the disaster zone. He was overheard appealing to the security agents around the area to endeavour to avert any breakdown of law and other.

The state Governor, Sim Fubara, had made his own visit where he set up a committee to begin rescue efforts and help victims.

Scavengers on rampage:

Meanwhile, scavengers have taken over the zone. The entire Onne Road from Eleme Junction in Port Harcourt is a scavenging zone and crime route especially child abduction. Eye-witnesses told BusinessDay that soon after the fire Friday night, scavengers began attempting the carcasses of the vehicles.

By the time Chigozie came back the next day, his Keke Napep was gone. He reported to the keke union and they traced it to a scavenge heap in the area.