UMUNYA, NIGERIA (BNO NEWS) — Scores of people died when a fuel tanker exploded on a highway in Nigeria’s Umunya on Friday, destroying at least nine other vehicles, including a loaded school bus.
The Saturday Tribune reported that more than 80 people died and an unknown number of people were seriously injured in the disaster which happened between noon and 2 p.m. local time on Friday. It happened at the Odumodu Junction on the Onitsha-Enugu highway in
Anambra, a state in Nigeria.
According to eyewitnesses, the tanker was stuck in a deep hole before it overturned and spilled the diesel it was carrying on to the road. When police arrived at the scene, the paper reported, police officers immediately fired shots into the air, causing the fuel to catch fire. “The tanker burst into flame that engulfed other vehicles that were close-by and equally trapped some of the people that were gathered around the scene [but] were not fast enough to escape,” the source said.
Five to seven of the vehicles which were destroyed in the blast were passenger buses, with at least one of them being a school bus loaded with children from a school in Umunya. “It was a horrific experience because we were standing nearby and could do nothing while these little children were burnt to ashes due to the level of heat that was coming from the fire,” a witness was quoted as saying. The News Agency of Nigeria cited a witness as saying that a convoy of vehicles carrying politicians was passing-by the tanker when it happened. At least one of the destroyed vehicles was said to be a BMW car.
Anambra State Governor Obi immediately mobilized the State Emergency Maintenance Agency (SEMA) to respond to the disaster, resulting in the rescue of five people who are being treated at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Hospital Nnewi. At least 6 other people were also being treated at various hospitals.
More than 12 hours after the initial blast, firefighters were still battling the inferno while rescue crews were making efforts to recover the corpses. Media reports said a fuel tanker earlier exploded at the same place, but did not cause as many casualties as on Friday.
The two people who were on board the tanker reportedly fled the scene.