Onitsha petrol tanker disaster: One accident too many
writes on a Sunday afternoon disaster involving a tanker carrying petroleum product which ran into a motor park in Onitsha after brake failure, resulting in the death of close to 80 persons.
It was on a Sunday afternoon, at about 3pm when the news of a tanker carrying fuel rammed into Asaba bound vehicles loading at the ever-busy Upper Iweka Motor park, causing a loud explosion that instantly engulfed about 10 buses, roasting several tens of humans to death.
The tanker which was transiting through Onitsha to an unknown destination and headed for Asaba was at first mistaken to be driven by a suicide bomber. This was alleged because of the way he drove into the ever busy park, but it has long been found to be cause by brake failure, even though it was still difficult to fathom why the driver did not think it wise to run into the other side of the road which is vacant rather than the busy motor park.
Reports had put the number of death at 65, but the Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Red Cross in Anambra State, Dr Peter Katchy in a later press interview, two days after the incidents stated that the death toll had risen to 85. This was following the inability of some of those who were badly injured in the accident to survive.
Katchy said that scores of others, who were involved in the accident are still in the hospital receiving treatment, just as the governor of the state, Chief Obiano who promptly rushed to the scene of the accident and was moved to tears by the sight of the people who were burnt in the accident and also visited Toronto Hospital to see those who were being treated of varying degrees of burn ordered speedy and special attention to the victims, promising that the state government will pick the bills.
The accident and its devastating effect has already come and gone, and the victims and their relatives have continued to nurse their pain, but a way should be sought to put a stop to the menace of tanker explosions and other heavy vehicles like trailers conveying containers, which always cause carnage on the roads.
While on a visit to the scene, Chief Mrs Ekwunife, the senator elect for Anambra Central, condoled with the victims and their relatives. The Senator elect whose zone falls within part of the scenes of the incident promised to effect proper legislation that would put an end to unnecessary loss of lives and property on the highways by lorry and heavy duty vehicles.
“It is unfortunate that we continue to lose our loved ones in such careless and difficult situations. I want to express my deepest condolence to the families that lost their loved ones in the ugly incident and pray for the repose of souls of the deceased. I promise to make legislation alongside my fellow senators that would put an end to such horrible incidents on Nigerian roads.”
Though she did not state what form the legislation will take, many have said that restriction of the movement of heavy vehicles at day will help to curb the continued loss of lives as a result of movement of heavy vehicles. A sympathizer, Mr Damian Ogudo who spoke at the scene of the accident that in civilized climes, movement of such sensitive things are petroleum products are done at night, just as trains are used to convey wares, without necessarily using rickety trucks at day.
In this area, the newly inaugurated administration of President Muhammadu Buhari must do well to strengthen the transport sector, especially in the light rail project commenced by his predecessor. Buhari must also ensure that a the federal Road Safety Corps is more strengthened to do its job and to ensure that vehicles that ply main roads in the country must be put in perfect condition as it is believed that if the woners of the tanker were savvy enough to check it before embarking on the journey, it would have detected a problem in the brake system.
Meanwhile, The Buhari administration must also be commended for promptly responding by dispatching the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo to Onitsha to see for himself the level of destruction. As at the time of filling this report, the vice president was being received by Anambra State governor, Chief Willie Obiano.