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PANDEMONIUM AS PIPELINE EXPLODES IN LAGOS

By NBF News
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But for the quick intervention of fire fighters, petrochemical fire from pipeline explosion could have wreaked monumental havoc at Isheri in Egbe-Idimu Local Council Development Area of Lagos State yesterday.

Daily Sun learnt that the explosion, which started at about 12:30p.m. at the back of Diamond Estate, along LASU-Isheri Road, was caused by the activities of fuel scoopers.

The fire burnt fiercely until about 4:00p.m before a combined team of the safety officials from the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC), Ejigbo and the Lagos State Fire Service put it under countrol.

When Daily Sun visited the scene, more than 20 holes, where petrol were springing from the ground were counted. A jerry can and funnels were seen at the scene. A vegetable farm is located at the place. Also, a power line of the Power Holdings Company of Nigeria (PHCN) also passed through the place.

A resident of Diamond Estate, Mr. Gilbert Ibekwe, told newsmen: 'When we sleep at night, we have always perceived smell of petrol but we don't know where it was coming from. We have made several complaints to the NNPC, but nothing has been done.' Another residents who did not want his name mentioned in print said he did not understand why fuel leakage from Idimu pipeline, which is about four kilometres away could have found its way to the Diamond Estate.

An official of the Nigeria Security and Cilvil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Mrs Opeyemi Aiyegbusi, Deputy Superintendent said there was no casualty. She advised the Federal Government to take over the site so that such occurrence would not happen again. An official of the Red Cross Society, Mr. Callistus Ukachukwu, stated that his findings showed that the fire was caused by some farmers who were burning refuse at the scene. He advised the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to set up a team that would review all their pipeline installations.

Though, no lives were lost, two persons, identified as Chukwuemeka and Stella Ekeh, sustained various degrees of injuries and were immediately rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Some residents were seen already fleeing the area, while others were busy salvaging their property.

One of them, who identified himself as Jamiu Lasis said: 'We are sitting on a keg of gun powder, as there is always fear of one calamity or the other here. If it is not pipeline explosion caused by vandals, it is about the one caused by people, who are working in their farmlands.'

He, therefore, appealed to the federal and state governments to take urgent steps to ensure that people are barred from farming in areas where there are pipelines. Lasis also appealed to the police and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), to intensify surveillance in the area to prevent hoodlums and farmers from further damages of oil pipelines.

He said he had already concluded plans to leave the estate after Christmas, as safety of lives and property in the area could no longer be guaranteed.

An eyewitness, Susan Agbato, told Daily Sun that she was in her vegetable farm when the explosion occurred. 'I heard Chukwuemeka shouting, 'Fire! Fire! I took to my heels.'

As at press time, fire service men and combined team of other security men were still battling to completely put off the fire.

The Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Idimu station, Mr. Ambrose Aghedo and his subordinates cordoned off the area to prevent hoodlums from taking advantage of the situation to commit crimes.

The command's spokesman, Mr. Frank Mba, who visited the scene with crime correspondents, said the fire started from old pipeline, which was abandoned.

He said no deaths were recorded but confirmed that two persons sustained injuries while farmlands were destroyed.

Mba, however, commended the fire service men and security agencies for their quick intervention.

A safety officer from the Petroleum Products Marketing Company, Ejigbo, Mr. Adams Sakiru, said: 'We got the distress call at about 12:30 p.m. and and we arrived at about 1:00p.m. The fire was still on when we arrived but we were able to put it out within two hours.'

Sakiru revealed that a team of engineers from the NNPC would soon visit the scene to determine the cause of the explosion and make recommendations.

A security guard at the estate said he noticed heavy smoke at the back of the estate at about noon and he thought that some people were burning tyres. But when he discovered that it was petrolchemical fire, he informed his boss. They later made several phone calls to radio stations and fire service centres.

Mr. Adebowale Sunday is the Chief Fire Officer, Operations, Lagos State Fire Service, he told journalists that: 'We received a call at about 12:30p.m. that there was pipeline explosion at Diamond Estate and we got to this place at 12:58p.m.

As at press time, some officials of the NSCDC, PPMC safety officers, and Red Cross Society were still at the scene to prevent further explosion.