Thursday, January 10, 2013

Five dead in Lagos oil barge explosion

At least five people were feared dead and many injured in the late hours of the morning Wednesday, as an oil barge offloading products at the MRS Jetty located at the Tin Can Island Port, Apapa Lagos exploded into flames.

The high degree explosion, which happened at about 11.30 am shattered glass doors and windows of buildings as far as 500 metres away from the jetty, including the administrative building of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ports and Cargo complex and a branch of First Bank situated over 500 metres away from the scene.

Our correspondent gathered that the incident occurred after a barge, a small ship bringing in fuel from the mother ship and offloading into the MRS tank farm was improperly handled. The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) confirmed the barge was bearing petroleum motor spirit (PMS) commonly known as fuel.

When LEADERSHIP visited the MRS complex at 12.30pm, business activities at the port have come to a halt, with people settling in small groups and discussing the incident, which was said to have caused stampede at the port.

Officials of MRS were not available for comment and the place was filled with security operatives who barred newsmen from entering the facility. Our correspondent however sighted officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), fire-fighting vehicles belonging to neighbouring Integrated Oil Services and the Lagos State Fire Service, which came in at 1.26pm.

An eyewitness said he saw at least five lifeless bodies wrapped in white cloths and taken away to an unknown morgue before he was asked to leave the premises.

Willem Auret, who witnessed the blast from a ship on its way to Snake Island in Apapa, said he saw a tanker barge catch fire at about 11:00 local time (10:00 GMT). "The fire started slowly and then expanded into chaos, exploding more than once," he told the BBC.

"After the initial explosion, which I caught on camera, there was a secondary explosion," he said.

It took about an hour and a half for the port authorities to arrive on the scene, he said.

"First one tugboat arrived... then several others joined it in an attempt to extinguish the fire. They seem to have the fire under control now."

Nema's Akande Iyiola told the BBC that the oil depot at Tin Can Island port where the explosion occurred was owned by the petroleum company MRS Oil.

"I felt the explosion from where we are," Charles Osagie, who works at an import-and-export office in the district, told AFP.

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