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We cried like babies – Ibadan tanker fire survivors

The driver of the ill-fated tanker that was coming from Challenge area of the city, was said to have lost control, after reportedly complaining loudly…

The driver of the ill-fated tanker that was coming from Challenge area of the city, was said to have lost control, after reportedly complaining loudly about brake failure, before the vehicle crashed and splashed its contents over a large area thus spreading the fire to many other places such as a mechanic’s workshop, shopping mall and other business areas where hundreds of innocent people were caught unawares.  
Though fire fighters arrived at the accident scene early, it took them several hours to stop the inferno from spreading to the neighbouring residential areas. The director of the fire service, Mr. Oyekunle Kareem, said at least 10 people died on the spot, but the official death toll has risen to 22, including an eight-year-old girl, who died this week at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan. Two of the 11 survivors with varied degrees of burns rescued from the inferno passed on this week.  
Witnesses said victims of the Molete fire disaster included the tanker driver who was trapped as well as a pregnant woman who died with two of her children. A middle-aged man who had just parked his car to buy bread lost his wife and three children when fire engulfed the vehicle.  People, who ran inside their shops for cover, were also reportedly consumed by the inferno which raged for several hours, while others, especially commuters waiting to board cabs and buses at the Molete Under Bridge sustained varied degrees of burns.
The raging fire also destroyed about 13 vehicles and 23 commercial motorcycles otherwise called Okada that were parked along the road as well as some buildings in the area, including 50 shops. The enormity of the destruction was too much to be instantly determined. It was weeping and wailing at the entire vicinity for days.  
The Iyaloja of Molete Market, AlhajaIswat Oyinlola, remarked that the casualty figure would have been higher but for a nearby stream that mitigated the force of the fire. The Iyalojasaid she was at home at about 10 p.m. that Saturday night when she got the message that a petrol tanker had lost control and crashed at Molete roundabout, spilling its fuel which resulted into fire disaster.
Survivors thanked providence for saving their lives but complained bitterly about their losses. Chigozie Eze, lamented that the accident had left him completely “naked.”
Eze, a patent medicine dealer, said he had already left his shop on the fateful night and was on his way home when he received a phone call that his shop was on fire. “I quickly raced back and when I got there, I was shocked to the bone marrow seeing the extent of the accident,” he said, adding that his younger brother was saved by divine grace as he escaped through the back door of the shop: “But we lost everything. I had more than N400,000 in the shop. One of our customers was unlucky as he lost his life in the fire.”
A panel beater in the neighbourhood, Mr. Quadri Lawal, said he lost his livelihood to the inferno as his entire shop was razed to theground: “My tools have been destroyed. We could not recover anything. My car also got burnt with those of customers kept in our custody. We cried like babies.”
Subairu Ajayi, a building materials dealer, told newsmen that he lost all his stock, explaining that five of his colleagues sharing the same shop with him, also lost their wares worth N1.2 million.  Isiaka Bello, one of his colleagues lost his Volkswagen Golf car to the fire.
A woman simply identified as Mrs. Godwin, whose two daughters suffered severe burns, said she could do with some help from good Samaritans. While lamenting the precarious condition of her children – Happiness and Precious – she stated that one of them is on admission at the Ibadan Central Hospital while the other is at the UCH.
Governor Isiaq Abiola Ajimobi was one of the early sympathizers at the scene of the inferno to commiserate with the families of those who were burnt, many of them traders beside the bridge. Ajimobi, who was visibly shaken by the gory sight, ordered that a crane be brought to immediately remove the carcass of the tanker which was blocking the road.  
The governor enjoined bereaved families to take solace in the fact that death will come when it will. He however, remarked that many who sought to take political advantage of his administration’s genuine love for the people, especially traders on the streets, must have seen the danger of politicising genuine government policies.
“As I came here this morning, gentlemen of the press, you yourselves could hear statements from the crowd that gathered here. They keep shouting ‘And Ajimobi had warned us off street trading o!’ The problem we have is that politicians seek to profit from the lives of the people. Our administration has genuine love at heart for our people. This is manifesting itself gradually and our people themselves can see that love.”
Ajimobi said he had gathered from the wailing crowd that the bulk of those who lost their lives were traders who refused to move to the nearby Scout Camp market which has over 1000 stalls with modern facilities constructed by the state government and given to the traders free.
“I learnt that a few days ago, another trailer veered off the road at Mobil area and hit the MTN building. If it had been before now when street traders gathered at the Mobil area, I imagine the number of casualties we would have been talking about,” the governor said.
“Apart from vehicles that skid off the road killing our people, high tension wires also get cut and kill our people selling their wares by the road sides. Our people should not listen to evil politicians who mislead them. They should support us to fight the menace of street trading. We love our people genuinely by asking them to leave the road and we will not allow evil politicians to profit from this genuine love by misleading our people,” he added.
Meanwhile, traders at the popular Molete Market, who closed their shops last Sunday, held an interdenominational prayer service at the market on Thursday, for the repose of the souls of the dead and God’s protection. The event signaled the resumption of normal business activities there.
During the prayer session, Muslims, Christians and traditional worshippers all said prayers according to their beliefs although theprayer points were on the repose of the souls of the dead and God’sassistance for those who lost property in the inferno.  Prayers werealso offered to avert recurrence of the last Saturday’s accident.  
The Babaloja of the Market, Mr. Wahab Bolarinwa, urged government to construct speed breakers from the entrance to the Molete flyover up to the market area to curb speeding of vehicles in the area. He also called for the immediate evacuation of street traders, observing that they contributed to the high casualty figures.  
Mr. Dan Onwuo, Mr. Salami Jogunosimi , Alhaji Isiaka  Yakubu, leader of the  Hausa community, as well as AlhajaIswatAbiolaOyinlola, who also spoke at the occasion lamented that for almost 30 years  that the market has been there, it has not recorded an accident of last Saturday’s magnitude.
They all called for government compensation for those who lost their property as well as for the families left behind by those who died in the accident.
Many Ibadan residents described the Molete tanker fire incident as a disaster of incalculable proportions which could have been prevented. Former governor Rashidi Ladoja described it as “most unfortunate and one too many.” Ex-governor Adebayo Alao-Akala said the fire disaster was “unfortunate and disheartening.” The Oyo State chapter of the People’s Democratic Party said the incident was depressing and called on government to take adequate measures in addressing the losses of the victims.  
In the same vein, the All Progressives’ Congress described the disaster as another sad chapter in the history of the state, in the face of the untiring efforts of the present administration to forestall the occurrence of such incidents in all parts of Oyo.

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