At least nine people have been killed after a petrol tanker with failed brakes crashed and exploded, engulfing dozens of vehicles in the Lagos rush hour.
The crash happened at about 5:30 pm on Otedola Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway one of the main routes out of the city on Thursday. Fifty-four vehicles were gutted
Commuters were forced to walk as traffic backed up throughout the city and as a clean-up operation continued through the night until the road was reopened at about 7:30 am.
At first light, the burnt-out shells of cars and buses were still being towed away from the highway, which was blackened and covered with ash for more than half a miles away. Petrol tanker fires are not unusual on Nigeria’s roads, which are often in bad condition and where vehicles are frequently old and badly maintained.
Blocks are often put behind the wheels of ageing, rusting trucks when they are motionless in traffic. The authorities said the initial crash was caused by brake failure. Motorists caught up in the chaos also questioned why fully-laden tankers were allowed on the road at peak periods.
The stricken tanker in Thursday’s crash was carrying 33,000 litres (8,700 US gallons) of petrol at the time.
Suleiman Yakubu, from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), said the location Otedola Bridge in the Berger area was a downhill stretch which drivers often take at speed.
Lagos state police spokesman Chike Oti was quoted in local media as saying drivers of tankers and articulated lorries had been warned to “put in all necessary safety checks”.
Another road safety official, who asked not to be identified, said the blame for this accident should be put on the driver and the owner of the vehicle. “People don’t keep their vehicles in good condition.
A roadside mechanic, said he had just finished repairing a car when he saw the tanker rolling back on the road.
“I could also hear the driver shouting ‘brake failure, brake failure’. I saw the motor boy (assistant) trying to put a wedge to stop the tanker from rolling back, “But the truck ran over the wedge backwards and immediately there was a bang.
I thought it was a bomb and there was an explosion and fire everywhere, so I started running away.” Fire erupted within seconds, forcing motorists to abandon their cars and flee, he added.
The Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) confirmed that at least four others suffered from varying degrees of burns as at least 54 vehicles were also lost to the terrible inferno.
In a statement signed by the state’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Kehinde Bamigbetan, the government commiserated with the families of the victims who lost their lives and properties in the fatal tanker explosion. He described the accident as a sad development, saying that it was most unfortunate and regrettable.
He urged motorists to continue to stick to safety standards and the state’s traffic laws so as to prevent a recurrence of such an accident.