Tragedy struck at the Calabar Free Trade Zone, CFTZ, on Sunday when no less than 30 people were burnt to death after a fire outbreak engulfed part of the market.
Reports say the fire razed part of the premises when a worker tried to siphon fuel from a vessel by opening one of the valves, but unfortunately the gasket on the valve failed and the pressure threw him off, with fuel flowing into the gutter.
The gush of petrol into the gutter attracted others who thought it was an opportunity to scoop free fuel with many thronging the area with gallons, drums, plastic and steel buckets disregarding the impending danger that such a rush may cause.
An eyewitness who identified himself as Uti said; “it was during the scooping of fuel from the gutter that the fire started and flowed back to LINC Oil and Gas and to Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, where it entered a vessel loaded with PMS.
Continuing, he added that; “As I speak with you, we have brought out eight bodies from LINC Oil and Gas and about six people, who were scooping fuel outside the gate, also died.”
Recounting the gory episode another eyewitness who didn’t want his name mentioned said; “The people scooping fuel said that the fire was ignited by somebody who was smoking cigarette close to one of the gutters that the product was flowing through, while some said it was a spark from one of the stainless steel buckets.
“For now, I can tell you that the Safety Manager and some security personnel from the company are dead. This tragedy was caused because someone got greedy; the person, who opened that valve, caused this fire because they wanted to steal petrol.”
The police however gave a conflicting report on the number of those who lost their lives with the Cross River State’s Commissioner of Police, Mr. Hafiz Inuwa, informing that nine people died in the inferno.
The CP also revealed that the manager of the depot is yet to brief the Police on what led to the explosion.
Inuwa said: “Nobody has come out to tell us that this is what caused the fire outbreak. We have gone round, we have done what we can, but investigation will later reveal what actually led to the explosion.
“For now, nine people are confirmed dead and many others, who sustained burns, are currently receiving treatment in one of the hospitals around town,” he added.
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