5 feared dead, scores injured
… As oil barge explodes @ Tin-Can Port
• NPA MD orders ‘full investigation’
There were also several injured.
The incident occurred when an oil barge offloading products at the MRS Jetty burst into flames and exploded.
The high decibel explosion, which happened at about 11.30am, shattered glass doors and windows of buildings as far as 500 metres away from the scene, including the administrative building of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
It was gathered that the incident occurred after the barge bringing in fuel from the mothership and offloading into the MRS tank farm was allegedly improperly handled.
The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) confirmed the barge was bearing petroleum motor spirit (PMS), commonly known as petrol.
The explosion, which threw the neighbourhood into a panic, resulted in stampede that left scores injured.
As at 12.30pm, business activities had been halted at the port, with people settling in small groups and discussing the incident.
Officials of MRS were not available for comments and the company premises was filled with security operatives who barred journalists from entering the facility.
At the scene were officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), fire fighting vehicles belonging to the neighbouring tank farm of Integrated Oil and Gas Limited and the Lagos State Fire and Safety Service.
An eyewitness claimed to have seen at least five lifeless bodies wrapped in white cloths and taken away to an unknown morgue before he was asked to leave the MRS premises.
“The explosion happened twice. The first was at about 11.30am, while the second happened about 15 minutes later. I was at Coconut (about a kilometre away) when I heard the bang like a bomb blast and I had to come here to see what has happened. Most of the people here are from Ajegunle, kilometres away from here.
“The whole place was engulfed in thick dark smoke and I could see another ship trying to put off the inferno with water. I think the vessel was having diesel, because, if it was fuel, it would have proved more difficult to control. That other vessel did the whole job of putting off the fire, because, by the time the fire fighters came, the inferno was already under control,” a man, who gave his name as Joseph Odey Papi, explained.
Another eyewitness said that he was inside the facilities of the Ports and Cargo Handling Services Limited of the TCIPC when the barge exploded.
“It was like there was a bomb blast in the building where we were. The building nearly collapsed; in fact I thought the building has already collapsed. All windows were shattered and many people have been taken to the hospital having sustained various degrees of injuries,” the eyewitness, who is a clearing agent, said.
Confirming the casualty figure at the scene of the incident a NEMA official, Mr. Ibrahim Farinde, said that those that were injured are now receiving treatment in hospital.
Although the identities of the casualties could not be officially ascertained, some persons at the scene said that they are staff of MRS.
Meanwhile, the NPA Managing Director, Mallam Habib Abdullahi, has ordered for full investigations into the incident.
NPA Assistant General Manager, Public Affairs, Mr Musa Iliya, confirmed that Abdullahi gave this instruction while visiting the scene yesterday.
In a released, which he issued on behalf of the NPA General Manager, Public Affairs, Chief Michael Ajayi, a copy of which was sent to SHIPS & PORTS DAILY, Iliya stated: “The blast which led to a fire outbreak on a barge was promptly curtailed by the NPA Fire Service and the Marine Department which fought the fire from the water front using the Authority’s tug boats.
“As at the time of the visit to the scene by the Managing Director, reports revealed that no life was lost.
“Investigation is to be conducted by the Health Safety and Environment department in conjunction with Marine and Fire Service to ascertain the immediate and remote causes of the incident.”
The NPA boss, according to release, “appealed to all stakeholders especially Port users to go about their normal business activities as the blast has not in any way affected Port operations.”
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