Friday, December 25, 2015 9:10 pm
*By sifting facts from fiction, we put the figure of the dead at 8, not tens or 100
There is no consensus yet on the number of people who died in the disastrous gas plant explosion in Nnewi, Anambra State on Thursday, although everyone agreed it was a huge inferno.
A journalist David Onwuchekwa tweeted that he saw 100 charred corpses. And Nigeria’s presidency today also spoke about tens of people dying in the disaster. Some other reports put the death toll at 50.
But official reports by rescue agents paint a different figure.
Yesterday, the Red Cross said four persons died, while four others were injured.
The conservative casualty figures were nearly corroborated by the Anambra Police Command which said also yesterday that six persons died.
In an update today the police said eight persons died in the explosion.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Ali Okechukwu, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that two bodies, a mother and her baby, were later recovered at a nearby building.
Okechukwu also described as false the “alarming and misleading figure” of casualty put at over 100 by the media.
“After the incident, six persons were confirmed dead outside the perimeter fencing of the company.
“Two other bodies of a woman and her child were later found dead in an adjourning building.
“Six other persons who were seriously injured were also rushed to the University Teaching Hospital Nnewi, and later referred to the hospital in Enugu,” Okechukwu said.
Okechukwu said that most of the casualties were motorcyclists and passersby who rushed to take a glance at the inferno before the explosion took place.
The Anambra state Fire Service also gave a low casualty figure.
The Acting Director of the state Fire Service, Mr Innocent Mbonu, said although some nearby buildings were affected, six persons died before the service came.
There is also controversy as to how the ghastly explosion occurred.
Anambra Fire Service chief, Mbonu said:
“Tentative report says the fire, which was extinguished after a fierce battle, was caused by domestic gas explosion which distributed fire to some buildings around.
The police version was that the fire might occurred at the time when domestic gas was being dispensed to customers.
“I think there was disconnect which led to the explosion,” Okechukwu, the police PRO said.
A witness said that the fire was caused by an explosion when a truck was discharging its contents.
Carl Ofuonye, another local journalist, said the blast was sparked when the truck exploded while discharging gas.
It appears Ofunonye’s account was the most credible as another witness, Emeka Peters, said the fire broke out when a tanker truck that had finished discharging fresh gas at the plant left without waiting to observe the prescribed cooling time.
‘The fire exploded like a bomb, and the whole gas station went up in thick, black smoke amidst an explosion from cooking gas cylinders,’ he said.
‘Many people were killed, and most of them were those that had been in the station queuing all day to get their cylinders refilled.
He added that the fire raged for hours.
The explosion occurred at the Inter Corp Oil Limited (LPG Gas Plant), a subsidiary of Chikason Group.
“So many people were in the building, workers at the plant, people who came to buy gas,” he said. “A woman and a child in a nearby building died, ” said David Onwuchekwa, the journalist.
“I saw flames but I didn’t know (what was going on) and started running and then I heard an explosion,” the wife of the manager of a nearby construction site told local TV station Television Continental. “Even while running the fire…burnt me all over.”
Mr Peters, 36, said most of the bodies and the few badly injured victims were evacuated to the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital in Nnewi.
‘Many of them were burned beyond recognition, and I doubt if many family members of the dead victims would be able to identify the remains of their loved ones,’ he said.
Red Cross spokesman Peter Kachi said: ‘The gas plant was completely destroyed and several houses around the scene damaged.’
‘As of yesterday evening, the underground tunnel tank was still burning, but it had been stopped from spreading to other facilities, said Police spokesman, Okechukwu.’
An investigation is underway into how the fire started.
*By Our Correspondent