Ten persons were confirmed dead and others critically injured when a petrol tanker fell and exploded at Amawbia Roundabout, in front of Anambra Fire Station centre in Awka.
Blueprint learnt that at least eight vehicles and some residential buildings within the vicinity were also gutted down by the inferno which occurred at about 8.30pm on Saturday.
Other public buildings within the vicinity are the Anambra State Police Headquarters, Anambra State Police CID, Governor’s Lodge, which Governor Willie Obiano was reportedly inside same time.
Markets, motor parks, and other public facilities are located within.
According to an eyewitness, Mr Paul Igwemma, whose car got burnt in the fire, “the tanker was negotiating a bend when it fell and subsequently burst into flames, prompting him (Igwemma) to abandon his vehicle immediately to save his life.
Another eyewitness, Mary Anyaora, who was seen weeping at the scene, said those who died were trapped in their buildings and were not able to escape from the fire.
A journalist (name withheld), who was returning from an assignment when it occurred, lamented: “I was there for about an hour with some other journalists but there was nothing to be done, although they tried by getting the casualties out of the fire but that was when fire service from Onitsha arrived yet it occurred in front State fire service. I wonder why is it that the incident happened exactly at the office of fire service and they couldn’t do anything. It’s quite embarrassing.”
Also speaking, a Civil defence officer, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said: “Many lives were lost (about 14 lives or more. Many vehicles burnt). The security agents are on top of the situation to control crowd. Road safety and civil defence evacuating 1st and 2nd degree burnt victims. Nigeria police controlling crowd and vehicle movements. It’s indeed terrible and disastrous.”
Confirming the incident, the Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Mr Andrew Kumapayi, blamed the incident on careless driving on the part of the tanker driver.
On his part, the Anambra State Police Public Relations Officer, SP Haruna Muhammed, said the situation was brought under control and obstruction cleared even as investigation was ongoing to unravel the actual cause of the incident.
“So far, a total number of Seven Corpses were certified dead at various hospitals by medical Doctors while the only surviving victim was referred to the University Teaching hospital Nnewi and was admitted at the intensive care unit of the hospital.
“Consequently, out of the seven Corpses confirmed dead, three are deposited at Amaku General Hospital Morgue, two at Regina Caeli Hospital and another two at Piston Hospital Morgue for postmortem examination,” said Muhammed.
Governor Willie Obiano and Senator Uche Ekwunife visited the scene last night and expressed sadness at the extent of damage caused by the fire outbreak.