A nursing mother, Ruth Mack, has every reason to thank God that she is alive. But for providence, the indigene of Abia State and her children would have died in the ravenous fire that accompanied the gas explosion that rocked Iju-Ogundimu, a community on the outskirts of Lagos, on Thursday.
No fewer than 30 persons were injured in the fire that also burnt 15 vehicles and razed 23 buildings, including X and Y Event Centre.
The explosion occurred around 3 pm as two gas tankers were being offloaded at a gas station owned by Manna Gas Ltd.
It was said that one of the tankers, a 30-tonne LPG, had a compromised seal valve which resulted in leakages and subsequently led to an explosion when the truck experienced tyre burst.
However, 31-year-old Ruth, who was only delivered of a baby girl on Wednesday, had just finished breastfeeding her new baby when the explosion occurred with a loud bang. She came out of her apartment at No 5, Modupe Street, Iju-Ogundimu to find out what was going on only to be told that a gas explosion had ravaged some residential buildings.
Minutes after the mother of two ran back into her apartment to rescue her children, the tanker blew and split into two, with one part falling into the compound of her residence, melting the window net of her room while the new baby was asleep.
The hot metal also crashed the window louvers.
“I didn’t know what was going on because I had just finished breastfeeding my new baby, ” Ruth said.
“I had placed my baby on her bed with the intention that I would sleep, having just been discharged from the hospital where I was delivered of the baby the previous day (Wednesday).
“Suddenly, I had a noise from outside and I decided to find out what was going on. By then, smoke had engulfed the whole place and everyone was running helter-skelter. I rushed inside and picked my baby girl and son.
“Before I knew it, the tanker had split into two and one part of it had landed in our compound, melting our window net and damaging window louvres. But for God, the broken glass would have killed my baby and her brother.”
While Ruth, an indigene of Abia State, decided to scamper into safety, she did not know exactly where she was running to until she found herself in neighbouring Elliot suburb.
She said: I joined other neighbours and we ran for dear lives even though we didn’t know where we were headed.
“It was just God that saved me and my children from being roasted. I didn’t know where I was running to with others. We ran as far as I could for hours and started bleeding from then on. As I speak with you, I am still in shock.’’
Ruth’s husband, Thomas Mack, a building engineer who could not hide his joy, thanked God for saving his family from gruesome death.
He said: “I cannot but thank God for His protection over my family. I was not at home when the fire incident occurred. I was in the church.
“I left my wife, my two children and my elder brother, Jacob, at home to attend a church service, not knowing that danger was lurking around.’’
Like Ruth, Sulaiman Hassan, 44, also survived death by a whisker.
Hassan, a trained electrician, who runs an electrical materials shop adjacent the razed X and Y Event Centre, sustained burns on his arm and one side of his face while trying to save some kids from the fire.
He said: “Initially, we were alerted to the gas leakages from the tanker and we had moved away from our shops near the scene. But the children of some of the traders here, whose parents had gone out, were innocently playing around.
“I was trying to rescue them from the explosion when fire balls landed on my body. As you can see, my hand, face and ankle were burnt.
“I have since visited a private hospital for treatment. I thank God that I am not badly hit by the fire.
“Many others who sustained severe burns are still in the hospital. One of them is the manager of the event centre (X and Y).”
The Nation gathered that a party organised by an unnamed resident was billed for the event centre on Saturday. The organiser of the party and family members were said to have visited the event centre to assess the arrangements shortly before the explosion happened.
Officials of the Lagos State Safety Commission led by the agency’s Director General, Lanre Mojola, later sealed the premises of Manna Gas Ltd.
Speaking with The Nation shortly after the company was sealed, Mojola said a thorough investigation would be carried out to unravel the circumstances surrounding the gas explosion.
He said that the incident was an avoidable one if certain laid down safety protocols were duly followed by the company and tanker drivers in discharging inflammable gas.
He said: “Certainly, it is an unfortunate incident, but it could have been avoided.
“We thank God that we have not had fatality so far. Some of the casualties have been minor, some have been major. We have quite a number of people with severe burns and we pray that they will recover.
“Our initial investigation points to human error and, obviously, there was a form of disagreement between the operators of the tank farm and the drivers that were to discharge the gas.
“In a bid by the driver to leave this area, they got stuck in the muddy road. Then there was leakage and a sort of ignition which led to the first explosion that affected so many other buildings and people. But it is part of everyone’s responsibilities to be safety conscious.”