No fewer than nine people died and about 54 vehicles burnt yesterday during a tanker fire outbreak on Otedola Bridge, a Lagos suburb on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
Four people – two of them critically – were injured as those caught in the fire tried to escape.
The accident occurred at the peak of traffic as workers were returning home around 5pm after the close of work. It led to serious traffic snarl in and out of the state.
Emergency workers had a tough time accessing the scene as a result of the traffic and the crowd that gathered near the scene.
It was learnt that a tanker laden with petrol fell while ascending the bridge, spilling its content and caught fire.
The General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Adesina Tiamiyu, said: “Nine bodies were recovered and four injured people. Two of the injured were in critical condition. They have all been moved to the hospital.
“We are removing the burnt vehicles from the road in order to ease traffic congestion.
“We advise people travelling to Ibadan or outside Lagos to use alternative routes.”
The spokesman for the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Bisi Kazeem, attributed the cause of the accident that led to the inferno to a “brake failure”.
According to him, the affected vehicles comprised of the fuel tanker, five buses, two trucks, one tricycle, and 45 cars.
He said the registration numbers of the affected vehicles could not be ascertained “as all the vehicles were burnt.”
The Commander of the Lagos State crime-fighting outfit – Rapid Response Squad (RRS) – Tunji Disu, an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), said his men that they had tough time controlling the crowd. He appealed to residents to stop overcrowding disaster scenes.
Many eyewitnesses disputed the emergency services’ casualty figure. According to them, many more died or were injured.
The motorboy of a truck parked a few metres away identified himself as Stephen Daniel.
Daniel said he watched the accident unfold, claiming he counted more than nine bodies.
He said: “I was beside my truck when the incident occurred. I think it was brake failure. I saw the truck lose control and hit the pillar. The tank broke away from the head of the truck and opened. Fuel started gushing out. The driver of a car behind the truck tried to reverse, but the car caused a spark and the tanker caught fire.”