The kerosene tanker explosion that occurred around Kubwa market in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Friday, November 5, has again thrown a lot of families in pain and sorrow.
The scene of the unfortunate incident is located opposite the market, which houses many shops, with a number of roadside petty traders. The explosion has left many with no other source of livelihood as the only one they had got burnt last Friday.
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About 16 persons are now believed to have lost their lives from the incident as confirmed by the authorities in three hospitals visited – Kubwa General Hospital, Garki Hospital and National Hospital.
Some victims and eyewitnesses who spoke to Daily Trust Saturday said the incident, which happened about 7pm, started with a spark from an electrical wire, which resulted in a kerosene tank explosion.
The kerosene tank, which was kept on an iron rail, exploded and landed on the roof of a nearby shop, where it remained until Saturday evening when it was removed.
One of the people who lost their lives at the scene of the incident was the owner of the kerosene kiosk, Mrs Joy Obodo. She was said to have died alongside her 10-year-old son. Her 14-year-old son died days later at Garki Hospital.
The 14-year-old boy was among two persons who were taken to Garki Hospital as they could not be accepted at Kubwa General Hospital due to lack of bed spaces.
In a compound located close to the scene of the incident, about four persons were said to have lost their lives, among them a pregnant woman whose date of delivery was 10 days away from the day of the incident. The pregnant woman, a teacher, was said to be relaxing outside the compound (her routine every evening) when the explosion occurred.
Another resident, Bijunus, lost two of his children – Chioma, 14, and a 21-month-old Angel. His wife, a petty trader, suffered severe burns and is still in a critical condition in the Trauma Unit of the National Hospital.
Narrating his ordeal to Daily Trust, he said that on the day of the incident, he was invited by an associate in the neighbourhood, but he decided to rush back home. “I was about to open the door to our room when I heard a loud sound. The first thing that came to my mind after noticing the fire was my wife, who sells vegetable by the roadside.
“I wanted to go out, but everywhere was covered in fire and smoke. I had never seen such fire in my life. People poured water, but all in vain, until the men of the fire service came and tried to put out the fire. I immediately started searching and turning bodies to enable me identify my family. I saw not less than 20 people on the ground,” he said.
Bijunus said he first went to Kubwa General Hospital but they were referred to the National Hospital due to the degree of burns his wife sustained.
Success Obinna, a 17-year-old secondary school leaver, is the fourth victim from the same compound as Bijunus. She was standing close to the scene, waiting for her sibling who had crossed over to the other side of the road, when the incident happened and she was engulfed by flame from the fire. Her 15-year-old sister survived with some burns and is receiving at the Kubwa General Hospital.
The head of her family, Mr Obinna Obilo, who was not at home during the incident, said although his wife was not at the scene of the accident, she was rushed to Kubwa General Hospital due to shock, and is currently under care at the hospital’s trauma unit, along with their surviving daughter.
Ernest Onumon, who operates a boutique behind the kerosene tank, said he was lucky.
“I would have been trapped inside my shop as the kerosene tank landed on the roof. The fire burnt my goods,” he said.
Onumon, who had partial burns on his head and one of his hands, noted that his neighbour, Chijoke, was not so lucky as he died from the incident on Saturday while on admission at the Garki Hospital.
He said some of them who survived were coping with two losses – the tragedy caused by the fire, and its aftermath, as the FCT Ministerial Task Force has demolished shops around the market, including his and those of 4 other victims of the fire.
“How does the government want those who lost their means of livelihood to cope?” He asked, rhetorically.
Sunny Gloria, a petty trader at the site, is grateful to God that she was not at the market on that fateful day as she travelled with her children to Nsukka in Enugu State.
“I would have been in the place along with my children as we were always there, but we travelled. However, my brother-in-law who just visited and was at the market lost his life in the incident,” she said.
Daily Trust observed that some of the survivors were being attended to at various hospitals in Abuja.
Also, a 24-year-old Rosemary Ali, a graduate of the Federal Polytechnic, Idah in Kogi State, was helping her sister-in-law in her shop pending when her call-up letter for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) would be ready, when the unfortunate incident happened.
Her aunt, Josephine Ali, who was seen looking after her at the National Hospital, said the injured victim was taking care of her sister-in-law’s business (the one who travelled to Nsukka that day) when the fire incident struck. “It affected her face, legs and arms. But we thank God that she is responding well,” she said.
More so, Mary expressed gratitude to the minister of state for FCT, Dr Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, who she said directed that she and other victims be transferred to the National Hospital from Kubwa General Hospital when she visited on Saturday.
“She came the following day to see us at the National Hospital and gave us (victims) N50,000 each. We were running out of money at that time, having already spent about N80,000 on drugs. She also directed that every victim should be treated free of charge,” Mary added.
The assistant director, Department of Information and Protocol Management, National Hospital, Rabiah Muhammad Bello, confirmed that out of the 11 victims referred to the facility, two died on arrival while seven were still on admission. She added that two people, a female adult and a child, were still in the hospital receiving treatment.
On his part, the Chief Medical Director, Kubwa General Hospital, Dr Lasisi Muideen, said about five victims of the incident were brought dead and deposited at the hospital’s mortuary. “Six were discharged, while five were referred to the National Hospital as directed by the FCT minister of state,” he added.
‘Govt must unravel cause of fire, compensate victims’
An activist, Sadiq Ibrahim said the FCT administration must unravel the cause of the fire because what is in public is very sketchy.
“Many lives have been lost and some people have been incapacitated. You must have heard the voices of some of the victims. It is pathetic situation right inside Abuja.
“We must also ask question on the whereabouts of the fire fighters stationed in the market nearby and whether they have the requisite equipment to address such emergency.
“Above all, families of those that died should be compensated. Some of them left behind little children…We must not allow them to suffer,” he said.
Barrister Aliyu Kamal said the truck owner whose driver conveyed the kerosene to the place should also be interrogated.
“We should find out if they have safety kits and whether the vehicle was ensured. We should also crosscheck the claim that it was a spark somewhere that ignited the fire.
“I know that these days because of the high cost of kerosene, people are mixing it with petrol. Authorities should take sample from the scene and test it in the laboratory so that we can pin responsibility of the carnage on someone,” he said.