The Police and the Federal Road Safety Commission gave conflicting accounts about casualties and the extent of damage caused by a fuel tanker that fell and triggered a blaze in Onitsha on Wednesday.
While the Police Command in Anambra confirmed the death of an unidentified woman and her child, the FRSC said no person died. The road safety agents said six buildings and some shops were affected by the fire.
To further compound the contradictory impact account, the News Agency of Nigeria, quoting witnesses said four persons died in the inferno.
SP Haruna Mohammed, Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in the state confirmed the death in a statement issued to journalists in Awka.
Mohammed said that the bodies of the unidentified woman and her baby, who were burnt beyond recognition by the inferno, had been deposited at the Toronto Hospital, Onitsha.
He said that the fire started at about 12:59 pm when a tanker carrying petrol lost control and fell around Upper Iweka area of Onitsha.
“The petroleum product later caught fire and affected many shops and houses,” he said.
The police spokesperson said that the Commissioner of Police in Anambra, Mr John Abang, had visited the scene for on the spot assessment.
Haruna appealed to residents of Onitsha to remain calm while men of the Fire Service department combat the fire.
The PPRO said that consequent upon the unruly conduct of some street boys, the police patrol teams had cordoned off the area to prevent hoodlums from taking advantage to loot while efforts were still ongoing to put out the fire.
An eye witness had told NAN that no fewer than four persons have so far died in the incident as the fire later spread to Ochanga Market, Onitsha.
“The fire started in front of Toronto Hospital Onitsha, before it spread to Ochanga Market area.
“I saw four lifeless persons, while a number of persons are still trapped in a building still burning,” he said.
The FRSC said six buildings and some shops were burnt on Wednesday.
The Sector Commander, Mr Andrew Kumapayi, said that the Fire Service Officials got to the scene of the fire promptly but could not put out the fire as their water pump developed fault.
“The tanker lost control due to break failure, the head of the vehicle pulled out while the tank containing Diesel fell into the gutter spilling its content on the road and caught fire due to the spill.
“The fire spread through the gutter and affected about six houses on the road and shops in Ochanja Market.
“No life was lost and no other vehicle was affected.
“The fire service got there on time but their pump developed fault, they left the scene to fix the pump and restrategise.
“If the pump had functioned, the fire wouldn’t have spread to the houses and shops,” he said.
Kumapayi warned tanker owners and drivers to ensure that their vehicles were in good condition before plying the roads.
“The saving grace was the road bumps constructed by the state government; it prevented the tanker from ramming into buildings around the area,” he said.
Kumapayi said that policemen and FRSC officials were on ground to maintain order and ensure free flow of traffic.