Fresh fact has emerged on how phone call triggered Lagos gas explosion which led to the death of five persons, as 15 vehicles and many houses were destroyed by the explosion which happened at Ojekunle Street, off Ladipo Street, in the Mushin area of Lagos State.
Punch correspondents, who visited the scene, observed that the site was a mishmash of shattered blocks, wood, iron, cars, and hundreds of gas cylinders.
The workshop where the explosion occurred housed mechanics, panel beaters, gas retailers and other traders.
Eyewitnesses, who spoke to PUNCH Metro, said the incident happened when a woman, identified as Mama Emma, was frying puff-puff around 7.30am.
Our correspondents learnt that around the same time, a gas retailer, identified as Sodiq, was dispensing gas from a cylinder to another for a customer. Sodiq usually sold gas to panel beaters in the workshop.
Witnesses said while dispensing the gas, his customer received a call, which triggered the explosion.
Sodiq, the customer, Mama Emma and two others were burnt to death, as their remains were bagged and handed over to their families for burial.
Many traders, who wept at the scene, described the gas retailer as a hard-working man who did not deserve to die in such a cruel manner.
Over 15 vehicles on the premises were shattered by the blast.
PUNCH Metro counted at least 15 vehicles of different brands whose engines were destroyed by the explosion.
Some of the vehicles were buried in the rubble caused by the blast, as sheds used by mechanics were uprooted and fell flat on the shattered vehicles.
A mechanic whose workshop was on the site, Tajudeen Olorunwa, told PUNCH Metro that his car, a Toyota Highlander, and four others belonging to his customers, were affected.
Olorunwa said he had never experienced such losses in his 24 years at the workshop.
Speaking in Yoruba, he said, “I thank God for the preservation of my life. I had a vehicle in my workshop when the explosion happened and four others belonging to my customers. The vehicles were for repairs, but I have informed their owners and they have asked me to send photos of the damage.”
He noted that one of his apprentices was severely injured and had been rushed to a nearby hospital.
Another mechanic, who identified himself only as Ahmed, said he was at the workshop around 7am shortly before the blast.
He said, “I was here sleeping in one of the vehicles when one of us was hit by a motorcycle. I and another apprentice rushed the victim to a nearby hospital and on our return, we saw that the explosion had occurred.
“I could have been burnt too if I didn’t rush the victim to the hospital. I used to sleep in one of the cars now destroyed by the blast. I will thank God forever for creating a way for my escape.”
An eyewitness, Juliet Nwokedi, who worked opposite the scene of the incident, said the body of the gas retailer was shattered by the explosion.
Another eyewitness, Pastor Micheal Ogunremi, who claimed to live close to the scene of the incident, said the workshop was once shut by the state government, but the lock was broken.
The South-West Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency, Ibrahim Farinloye, said 121 cylinders were recovered from the scene.
He said, “An LPG domestic retailing centre located on Ojekunle Street, Ladipo Spare Part Market, exploded and resulted in casualties. Four adults – three males and one female – were recovered dead, while a 10-year-old boy rescued alive died before getting to the hospital.
“The scene was said to have been sealed because the side of the street was dedicated as a mechanical village on which no other user was allowed. But after some time, the seal and lock were removed before the incident occurred.”
The Director-General of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Oluwafemi Oke-Osanyintolu, while speaking at the scene of the incident, said a panel would be set up to investigate the cause of the incident.
He said, “After a rigorous and aggressive response, we put out the fire after one hour and we were able to bring out 10 injured persons, who were treated on the spot and discharged. But it is pathetic that we recovered five bodies, four males and one female. Recovery is ongoing and we are going to get to the root of the matter.”
The Chairman of the Mushin LGA, Emmanuel Bamgboye, who also visited the scene, said the council would set up a committee to investigate the incident.
The state Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, urged residents to stop receiving calls around gas depots.
He said, “This is a disaster that is completely avoidable; this is human negligence because what we heard was that the thing blew up when someone was trying to refill a gas cylinder while making a call.”
Also, an official of the Department of Petroleum Resources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “We gathered that a lady was frying early in the morning and that prompted the explosion in the gas depot.
“But what we observed was that the cylinders stacked there were not in tandem with what we use in the industry.”