The gas explosion in Lafia

Natural disasters are not common in Nigeria except (seasonal) flooding currently ravaging some communities in some parts of the country.
Stories of major earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, typhoons, volcanic activities and rampaging conflagrations, it appears, belong to faraway lands.
Last Monday, however, another disaster of immense proportion occurred in Lafia township.
A gas explosion occurred at a filling station that left over 20 lives consumed by fire, while more than 50 people suffered various degrees of severe burns.
According to eyewitnesses, the tragedy occurred at the Monaco Filling Station, Lafia, where a product reservoir, believed to emit leakage, subsisted.
A head-on collision between a commercial motorcyclist and a tricyclist along the street close to the filling station sparked fire which the leakage responded to.
Consequently, the station caught fire that led to the explosion that consumed no fewer than 17 vehicles, two fuel tankers, several tricycles and motorcycles.
Many adjoining houses were also razed down and properties worth millions of naira reduced to ashes.
It was a gory sight as several bodies, most of them burnt beyond recognition, littered the scene of the explosion.
Victims included kids, some students on their way to the Nasarawa State Polytechnic, Lafia, and travellers along the Lafia-Abuja road.
The Lafia tragedy has once again brought to the fore the need to ensure safety at our fuel stations as well as in handling highly inflammable products even on the highways.
Only recently, a fuel tanker exploded on the Otedola Bridge, Lagos, killing several people and severely burning scores of others.
No fewer than 50 vehicles were also consumed and many private properties around the vicinity razed down.
Earlier this year, precisely on January 15, a gas explosion occurred at the Second Coming Filling Station in Magodo, Lagos.
The explosion was believed to have been caused by a leakage from a gas plant.
About 10 lives were lost, while all the vehicles in and around the gas station as well as one 33,000-litre gas truck parked in the premises were caught in the raging inferno.
Incidents of gas explosion are not peculiar to filling stations alone.
There are several cooking gas selling points littering everywhere in the country.
It is common to see sales outlets accommodated in crowded locations like markets, plazas and residential areas, just as fuel stations are sited close to commercial and private homes along the streets.
For instance in June 2010, a poisonous gas cylinder was cut open by a roadside welder.
Even though no fire disaster occurred from the emission, the incident led to the hospitalisation of about 500 residents of the Kakuri area of Kaduna state as victims that inhaled the chemical included pregnant women and children were fainting one after the other.
The welder that caused the calamity at the DIC Road – likely unintentionally – managed to flee to safety and was never arrested.
The lesson from all these tragic incidents is that Nigerians must be safety conscious.
The relevant regulatory agencies, including the Fire Service, have a responsibility to see to it that operators of the businesses meet the necessary conditions for the setting up of filling stations and adhere strictly to safety standards.
The same goes for marketers of cooking gas and similar inflammatory products.
They must be made to train their workers on how to respond to emergency situations whenever they occur, and the workers must be equipped with fire fighting tools.
Filling station owners must also ensure that their patrons adhere strictly to the rules that forbid making or answering calls in and around their stations, especially the pump points where products are being dispensed.
Motorists should realise that driving into a filling station is like a death sentence if they contravene the safety rules.
Those who contravene the rules should be dealt with promptly.
The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) also has a responsibility to step their duties of checking the excesses of fuel tankers on the highways.
Many infernos along the highways have been caused by the tanker drivers that over-sped with loaded trucks.
Some of them are often parked in a reckless manner along the highways.
By so doing, they cause obstruction which could result in other vehicles crashing into them and sparking fire.
Many families, friends and relations must have been shaken terribly by the Lafia calamity.
Blueprint sympathises with them and wishes the survivors speedy recovery.
It is expected that the state government will pick the bills of the victims that were rushed to various hospitals.
It should also spare no efforts to ensure that such calamity does not reoccur anywhere in the state.


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