The Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Dr Uchechukwu Ogah (today) suffered heavy casualties and setback as a fuel station which he has substantial interest in located at Aba Road, Umuhia went up in flames today, Saturday morning, burning beyond recognition the diesel tanker at the station.
The weird incident, which caused huge economic loss and panic in the capital city, made people whose houses are located within the vicinity ran helter scatter, packing out their belongings as the inferno raged on, sending billows of fire and dark smokes into the air.
“It’s terrible and lamentable”, remarked an onlooker, “this is akin to hellfire.. very horrific. If it’s like this in this world, how would hell be?” he queried rhetorically.
The adjourning building that serves as the campaign headquarters of the immediate past governor of Abia State and Senator representing Abia Central, Theodore Orji was not spared as the canopy-like shed in the premises were burnt.
The State and Federal Fires Service personnel who arrived the scene, had hectic times containing the fire that was sending pellets of fire into the air after the tanker exploded. No lives was however lost as the firemen battled strenuously to contain it after over two hours of battle.
Witnesses said the tanker exploded during the process of offloading of diesel at the fuel station as the indigenes of town were embarking on monthly sanitation exercise. But none of the persons spoken to by this Reporter could ascertain the reason for the explosion, but it was gathered that those draining the content of the tanker into the underground tank did not follow safety standards as the process was going on.
The Fire Service men, some witnesses said, ran out of water on two occasions thereby incurring the wrath of some bystanders who out of anger, engaged one of the Firemen in a fight to the detriment of the assignment of quenching the raging inferno.
The Secretary to the Abia State Government (SSG), Barr Chris Ezem and Chief of Staff to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, Professor Anthony Agbazuere who visited the site, expressed sadness on the incident. Both men however declined comment.
Mrs Agnes Ifeatu who was one of the witnesses said she was disappointed that the Firemen did not have enough water to exterminate the fire early enough, adding that the incident would have been worse if what exploded was a petrol (PMS) or gas.
It was learnt that few minutes into the inferno, policemen took positions in strategic places to forestall any looting. As at time of filing this report, the fire has subsided while station was counting its losses.
Uche Nwosu is a two time Shell Petroleum PLC award winner in the year 2000;
He won the Shell Award on Investigative Journalism and Environmental Cleanliness.