YENAGOA – Some victims of the Thursday dawn deadly fuel tanker blaze at Okogbe community in Ahoada West local government area of Rivers State on the border flank with Bayelsa State who were rushed to the Federal Medical Centre Yenagoa yesterday relived their harrowing experiences and miraculous escape from the jaws of death.
Over 100 persons, including pregnant women, youths and children were sent to their untimely death when a petrol tanker from which they were scooping fuel exploded.
Sadly, twelve out of the twenty victims that were rushed to the Federal Medical Centre, Yenagoa with first degree burns could not survive the trauma and gave up the ghost few hours after they were brought in due to what a source described the inability of the centre to cope with such situation.
This development, Saturday Vanguard learnt is causing some of the families of the survivors concern because of their delicate condition.
According to a staff, eight of the survivors rushed to the Federal Medical Centre had been referred to the already eight of the victims at the Federal Medical Centre in Yenagoa, had been referred to the University Teaching Hospital in Benin City, Edo State and in the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The source said, “The victims suffered first degree burns which can not be handled by the hospital due to the unavailability of a machine used in the treatment of such high degree burns. ”When they were brought in, we tried and administer first aid and treatment to stabilise their conditions and referred them to UPTH or the UBTH in Port Harcourt Rivers State and Edo State respectively.”
Saturday Vanguard also sighted some families of the victims at medical facility in Yenagoa making effort to relocate their relations to Port Harcourt.
One of the victims at the Federal Medical Centre, Collins Efejiro, in his mid thirties at the FMC, relieved his close shave with death on the fateful day saying it was providence that spared his life.
Efejiro who hails from Delta State said he was looking forward to his traditional marriage ceremony to his heartthrob on July 21, 2012 at Ughelli.
The Delta born Efejiro, whose skin was badly burnt said he earned his daily bread as a commercial motorcyclist otherwise known as Okada rider in the area.
According to him, he was called by a friend to come and get free fuel from the ill-fated tanker that was spilling petrol after skidding off the East West road in an attempt to avoid ramming into a bus on the ailing narrow route.
Recalling his near kiss with death, he said, ”When I got to the scene, I met a rowdy situation and struggled to get closer but no way. At the end, one of my friends that had a 50 litre jerry can filled with scooped product offered to fill my empty 10 litres for me.
“As he was pouring the fuel, we hear a very loud explosion. As we looked up to the direction of the fallen tanker, we saw some bodies of people we know being flung all around us.”
Meanwhile, most of the casualties of the Okogbe petrol fire disaster have discharged themselves against medical advice at the Ahoada General hospital.
Some medical personnel who spoke to the Saturday Vanguard at the hospital under condition of strict anonymity said they could not understand why patients acted the way they did in spite of a subsisting state government directive that they should be given adequate medicare.
When Saturday Vanguard visited the hospital only six of the patients were being attended to at the male ward. Our Correspondent could not gain access to the female ward because it was not visiting time. Some worried relatives were at the hospital for information. Those who could not identify their relatives in the wards were politely referred to the mortuary attendant.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that about four of the casualties died in the early hours of yesterday at the hospital while several others died at other hospitals they were rushed to. According to some of the hospital sources virtually all the patients were rushed in with one hundred percent degree burns, adding that they were losing water.
The sources further explained that most of the patients were on drip because it was necessary to replace the water they were losing.
Some doctors and nurses were redeployed from other government hospitals around to assist in managing the patients at the hospital. Saturday Vanguard also gathered that some of the patients were transferred to Port Harcourt when it became clear to the hospital management that their condition were too critical to be handled at the hospital.
A community source who also spoke to us said he was aware that some families pulled their patients from the hospital to give them traditional medical attention, adding that most of the patients were disappointed when the state Commissioner for Health, Dr Sampson Parker visited and did not distribute money among them.
“Relatives of most of the patients were disappointed that the Commissioner of Health came and just left like that. He did not share money to the patients. Another thing is that we in this environment believe in traditional medical treatment much. So relatives withdraw their patients from the hospital”, the source said.
It would be recalled that the state Commissioner of Health, Dr Parker was at the scene where he assisted in supervising movement of casualties to the General Hospital. The Commissioner who was visibly shaken by the sight of the painful incident at the hospital that Thursday ensured that the patients got speedy medical attention.
The charred remains of those who roasted to death at the scene of the accident were given mass burial in the early hours of yesterday. Those who spoke to Saturday Vanguard by the side of the grave said a crane was used to evacuate them into a grave that was dug by a caterpillar.
A sympathiser, Segun Oluwatoyin who works at the lubrication section of Mobil filling station in Ahoada East local government area lamented the painful incident. He said he was among those who rushed to the scene when the tanker exploded.
It would be recalled that a petrol tanker spilled its content at about 7am at Okogbe, Ahoada West, Rivers state end of the East West road.
Mr Oluwatoyin told Saturday Vanguard that the driver of the tanker reportedly appealed to locals not to go close to the tanker after he had managed to escape from it. But they ignored his advice. Most of the locals rushed to the tanker with jerrycans, buckets and other household utensils to scoop fuel. Motorcycle riders were also seen at the spot trying to fill their tank.
Nobody could say what triggered of the fire but the tanker suddenly burst into flames consuming over a hundred persons.
At the General Hospital, some officials of NEMA were seen collating information on the incident. One of them who volunteered comments said it was a presidential directive that they should go to assemble data on the incident.
A youth Secretary of Ekpeye Youth, Oketu Oliver who spoke to Saturday Vanguard linked the accident to a robbery incident on the road. He said robbers blocked the road so there was no room for the trailer when it swerved avoiding a Toyota corolla car that also lost control on the road due to a commercial bus that hit it from the rear.
Meanwhile, governor Chibuike Amaechi has ordered full investigation into the cause of the sad incident.