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Day of horror in Onitsha

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.. Many feared dead     

.. Properties worth millions of naira destroyed

.. Hoodlums scare away fire fighters, vandalise shops

.. Obiano condoles victims, pledges assistance

YESTERDAY was a day of horror in Onitsha, Anambra State. At about noon, a fuel-ladden tanker heading toward Bridgehead on the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway lost control at around the Zik’s Mausoleum area.

  Upon hurtling down the Upper Iweka flyover, the tank and the truck’s head de-linked. According to eyewitnesses, the fuel-ladden tank fell into the water drainage channel by the road and burst open while the truck head shaded across the road.

  As fuel from the tank split and flowed through the sewage channel, fire spread along until it caught a gas depot that went ablaze. The flames engulfed the entire area, and strayed into parts of the Ochanja Market where some persons, including a nursing mother and her baby, among others, as well as buildings, properties and goods were razed.

  As at press time, the fire is yet to douse while the total number of dead persons is yet to be ascertained. Initial estimate losses runs into scores of millions of naira as many shops were burnt while hoodlums and looters had a field day-breaking into business people’s shops and carting away goods. Passers by and travelers were also among victims of the brigands.

  Eyewitnesses said the tanker that was burnt beyond recognition at MCC Bus Stop, near Toronto Hospital, bounced until it plunged under the Upper Iweka Road Flyover.

  It was at that stage that the woman and her child, who were around the area, were caught up in the inferno.

  A stampede ensued around the area as people fled in varied directions, while some made for the burning houses, apparently to rescue properties. The fire reportedly raged for over one hour before fire fighters from other parts of Onitsha and Asaba, Delta State arrived to the consternation of some eyewitnesses who initially scared them away with boos and stones.

 This was before Commissioner of Police in Anambra State, Mr. John Abang and his team, along with military men arrived to make way for the fire fighters at the scene in an apparent move that brought the reign of hoodlums under control.

  A resident of MCC Junction area, Kenneth Idoko, confirmed that the fire spread from a flowing fuel from fallen tanker at Upper Iweka section of Onitsha-Enugu Expressway and got into the plastic section of the Ochanja Market. The highly inflammable nature of plastics in shops aggravated the inferno.

  Another observer, Uchenna Omeh claims that many properties within Upper Iweka, Izuchukwu down to Ochanja roundabout were gutted, putting the entire axis in a cloak of dark ruins-all through the day.

   Meanwhile, Governor Willie Obiano has expressed his sympathy to the families of the woman and her child that were burnt to death in the Onitsha tanker fire, praying for the repose of their souls with a promise to assist their families in their burial arrangements.

  The governor sent his sympathy in a release issued in Awka yesterday by Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr.  C. Don Adinuba, describing the accident as a tragedy, which has sent the whole state into mourning.

   According to the release, Gov. Obiano has directed owners of properties affected by the tragic accident, including shop owners, to report at the Conference Room of the Secretary to the State Government on Monday, October 21, 2019, to see how the Anambra State Government can assist them, adding that a panel will be set up immediately to determine the cause of the accident, why the firemen could not put out the fire and how the condition of the victims can be ameliorated as well as ways to forestall similar occurrence in the future.

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