Iyana-Ipaja Fire Disaster Victims’ Tales Of Woe
RESIDENTS of Iyana-Ipaja living along the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway will not forget in a hurry the inferno that woke them up from sleep in the early hours of Tuesday. Many shops, houses and vehicles were razed during the unfortunate incident.
When The Guardian visited the place, charred remains of the tanker which caused the havoc littered the road by the overhead bridge. Some of the victims were seen trying to salvage some of their belongings from the ruins of the inferno. The roofing sheets of the affected shops dangled in the wind. Relatives and well-wishers were seen sympathizing with the victims who were counting their losses. Charred remains of properties damaged by the unfortunate incident were scattered on the ground. Most of the passers-by shook their heads at the level of the destruction.
The fire followed the fuel that flowed through the gutter from the scene of the incident down to the neigbouring streets of Oremeji and Bakare Jafojo, gutting vehicles, some shops and houses along the drainage.
One of the victims, Mrs Adebayo Aminu, a trader who sells cosmetics said it was the driver of the fuel tanker that woke her up from sleep along with other residents before the explosion that rocked the area on that fateful day.
“We could not pack our belongings from our shops before the fire started. Before fire fighters came, we were using water to put out the fire. I lost goods worth millions of naira in my shop. I want the government to assist us quickly,” she said.
Mr Simeon Orukpe, who lives at 15, New Ipaja Road adjacent to the scene of the incident recalled that he was in his house with members of his prayer team, keeping vigil when the fire started.
“All of a sudden, we heard a strange noise. I told the brethren that Iwill go and find out what was happening. The moment I open my door, I discovered that everywhere was filled up with fuel. I thought it was flood but there was no sign of rain. I soon discovered that it was fuel tanker that fell from the bridge down the road,” Orukpe said.
He was one of the persons who started blowing the whistle for other people in the neighbourhood to wake up and run for their lives.
Orukpe disclosed that he warned everybody not to make calls with their cell phones before the fire erupted.
“Everybody was outside on the bridge, before the fire started. It was like an hour after the tanker fell. The fire did not even started here, it erupted miles away. In less than five minutes, the who place was on engulfed by fire.”
Orukpe said before the explosion, they made futile attempts to call on the fire service at Okeodo and Agege stations. “They were not reachable. Ten minutes after the fire started, the fire fighters appeared from Ikeja fire station.”
He lamented that everything he had was lost to the fire. “I could not save any property from my room from the fire. Even I borrowed the clothes I am wearing now from a friend. Property worth N800,000 was destroyed in my room.”
All his school certificates and that of his wife, Mary, were lost to the fire. “I finished from University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State. My wife went to Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State.”
Orukpe who is also from Edo State urged the government to assist victims of the inferno.
“I am pleading on behalf of the victims to the government that we need their assistance in Iyana Ipaja. Many of us are now homeless. My wife is pregnant and we need to go for medical check-up.”
Mr Mathew Otunyoh of 17, Ipaja Road said it was around 1 am on Tuesday that the fuel tanker fell. “Everybody ran for safety. After about 30 minutes after the incident, the fire started.”
He recalled that his wife, Loveth, was more affected by the tragedy. She lost an undisclosed sum of money and her goods worth thousands of naira inside the house.
“The worth of everything we lost is about N100,000. My wife just gave birth to a baby three days before the incident. We are just squatting with my brother. The Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode said we should give him 48 hours to act. He came here on Tuesday. We are waiting for what he is going to do for us.”
Oyindamola Babatunde, 26, a staff of Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) who lives around Shagari Estate, had her Keke Maruwa (commercial tricycle) razed.
She disclosed that she bought the tricycle and gave it to one Alfa Nojimu who lives at 19, Oremeji Street Iyana-Ipaja.
“I bought it in February 2015 as a means of investment. I bought it for N450,000. He started using it in March. I made about a hundred and something thousand naira from the tricycle before the fire incident.”
Close to her damaged tricycle were other mangled tricycle. She said Nojimu was using the tricycle to eke out a living and was giving her regular returns before the incident. “I met him through the Chairman of the park.”
Babatunde wants the government to do the needful to reduce the burden of the victims of the inferno. She regretted that somebody who sustained more than 70 per cent degree burns during the incident had died in the hospital.
About 17 cars parked almost bumper to bumper along the Bakare Jafojo Street were all destroyed by the fire.
One of the victims, Ayodele Abiodun, a teacher, recalled that his Toyota Matrix 2006 Model with registration number GGE5936F which he bought two years, was destroyed. “It cost me over N1million to buy the car.”
He said that it was around past 1am on Tuesday when the ugly incident happened. “It was the noise of the fire incident that woke me up. When I got outside, I saw fire. When I saw the flame of the fire covering my car I knew the car was gone. When I saw other cars parked in front of my car also razed, I knew there was no remedy. We want the government to assist us.”
Abiodun who read Economics at Adeniran Ogunsaya College of Education, Ijanikin, Lagos, urged the government to put in place necessary measures to guard against future occurrence.
“I believe the government should check the non-chalant attitude of tanker drivers. The activities of the touts around the bus stops should be checked as well. One person caused this havoc. I heard that the touts were trying to extort money from the tanker driver before the vehicle tumbled. It will be highly appreciated if the government can compensate the victims adequately,” he said.
Mr Olatunbosun Onabanjo of 2, Bakare Jafojo Street, Iyana-Ipaja, the owner of a Chevrolet bus that was razed, said that the vehicle was for sale.
“It is a tokunbo vehicle (fairly used vehicle from abroad). I have the particulars with me. I think it is getting up to a year that I bought it. I wanted to sell it for N1.45million. I bought it for N1, 3,000.”
He explained that he was not around when the incident happened. He travelled to Port Harcourt, Rivers State. “So they called me that I should come back to Lagos. I arrived Lagos yesterday (Wednesday) evening. They said a tanker fell around Iyana- Ipaja and the fuel spread all the way to our street because it is a sloppy area. It later led to the inferno that destroyed many houses and vehicles.
“From the information gathered, we learnt that the problem started when street urchins were trying to extort money from the tanker’s driver. My advice is that government should try and checkmate the street urchins because they are everywhere within and outside the state.”
Mrs Bidemi Bolarinwa, a trader whose husband lost his Lexus Jeep RS 300 with registration number LSD 826DP parked in front of her shops, recalled that her husband bought the car for over N2 million.
“I cannot say what led to the fire because we were at our residence that day when the incident happened. We live at the other side across the road. We used to park our motor in front of my shop. We live across the Express road. My husband, Gbadamosi, bought the Jeep almost six months ago. Even the people living close to my shop cannot say how the fire started.”
The air conditioner in her shop was also charred but the fire did not enter her shops that was stocked with soft drinks.
“I thank God that the fire only destroyed my air conditioner. All my drinks are intact. We want the government to help us because things are not easy for us.”
She recalled that government officials took the particulars of the car, and her husband’s ID Card and promised to help them.
One of the sympathizers, Alhaji Kehinde Ajibade, said some of the traders whose properties were destroyed don’t live at Iyana-Ipaja. Most of them came in the morning to meet their shops in ashes.
“After overloading their vehicles, most of the tanker drivers are not in full control of their vehicles again. We want the government to help those people whose properties were destroyed by the fire. Let them do something urgently to curb the menace of worn-out vehicles on our roads.”
Another sympathizer, Mitiu Alarape, described what happened as very sad. “I don’t live around here but the person who owns one of the affected shops is my friend. The things in his shop alone were worth more than N3 million. Let the government help the people involved.”
Kehinde Lawal, a mechanic in the area, said there has never been a fire of that magnitude in the area.
“Let the government help the victims. That is where they are getting money to feed their families,” he said.