This year’s Christmas eve will certainly remain a sad day for officials of Chikason Group of Industries and residents of the Nnewi Industrial town of Anambra State, following a gas explosion that claimed about 100 lives.
Some of the casualties, including workers, customers and some residents of areas around the industrial site were burnt at one of the sections of the industry’s site.
The blast occurred at about 11am yesterday at the Inter Corp Oil Limited (LPG Gas Plant) causing a fire disaster which burnt virtually all the workers at the gas plant.
According to an eyewitness, the incident occurred when a truck was making an attempt to discharge its contents without waiting for the mandatory cooling time while customers were said to be refilling at the same time.
All the people who went to the gas plant to get a refill were allegedly burnt to ashes while some of the victims who were in the neighborhood and passers-by also got caught in the inferno.
Charred bodies of victims and other badly affected persons scattered at the premises of the gas plant were taken to Nnamdi Azikwe University Teaching Hospital (NAUTH), Nnewi .
But the heavy inferno did not allow rescue workers gain access into the factory where the majority of the victims were trapped.
A fire officer at Nnewi, Mrs Mary Ofia, however claimed that the Nnewi fire truck was vandalized by angry mob when they went for an operation at Nkpor.
Apart from the lives lost to the inferno, many buildings and over 50 vehicles around the gas plant were also affected and some dead victims were actually recovered in their homes.
A resident in one of the buildings around the area, Mr Ike Ikechukwu narrated his ordeal thus:”My mother was preparing pepper we want to use to cook tomorrow (Christmas Day) after she returned from the market, the next we heard was the explosion that rocked the entire vicinity. I ran for my life and escaped with minor injury but my mother was not lucky. She was not as fast as myself, when the fire came down a little bit, the next thing I saw was her dead body. Look at the chicken we plan to kill tomorrow for Christmas.”
The chairman of Anambra State Red Cross, Prof Peter Katchi, who headed rescue operations, decried the presence of many filling stations in residential areas in the state. He pointed out that the situation would have been worse if the affected gas plant was situated in thickly populated areas.
He pointed out that the Red Cross and the Anambra State Emergency Agency would declare war on owners of filling stations sited at residential areas in the coming year.
When the fire fighters from AWka and Okpoko finally arrived, it took the intervention of the security agents to save them from being lynched by some angry mobs who questioned why Nnewi fire service was not functional. A combined team of the army, Federal Road Safety Corps, the police had hectic in trying to disperse the surging crowd at the scene of the fire disaster.