*Toddler rescued from collapsed building
*Truck driver not dead
*Lagos govt probes cause, sets-up N2b relief fund
*NNPC Right of Way intact — Kyari
*No student died—Sch mgt
* Catholic Church confirms death of Alokha
*Incident beyond pipeline explosion —Aare Adams
*PDP, Afenifere, ERA/FoEN call for inquiry
By our correspondents
THE death toll in Sunday’s Lagos explosion, at Ado Soba, in Abule Ado, Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State, has risen to 20 from earlier recorded 15, as five more bodies were recovered, yesterday, from the rubble of the incident.
Lagos residents, yesterday (Monday) turned the site into a kind of tourist centre as they trooped out in their thousands, wailing and lamenting on the level of devastation.
The carcasses of collapsed buildings and wreaked vehicles littered the entire area as armed security personnel cordoned off the place.
Toddler rescued from collapse building
But a toddler, simply identified as Favour, was rescued alive from the rubbles of one of the collapsed building at the explosion site.
The three-year-old baby girl was rescued from the rubbles on Sunday night by Red Cross officials at the scene.
Chairman of the Red Cross in Nigeria, Adebowale Kolawole, said: “We recovered her naked under the debris of a building. Later, we found out that the mother and her sibling were admitted to the hospital. The mother, who sustained a head injury, was in a semi unconsciousness state. This morning (Monday) when she asked for her daughter, the doctors told her that her daughter was safe and was with the Red Cross. As soon as possible, we are taking her to go see her mother at the naval hospital. She is Favour and God has favoured.”
Couple dies from explosion
Vanguard, however, gathered that the identity of the pregnant woman, who lost her life alongside others, has been revealed.
She was Chisom Udoakonobi.
It was gathered that the late Chisom, died alongside her husband, Mr Udoakonobi.
Vanguard also gathered that the couple was the only children of their parents.
Residents recount ordeal
Also recounting his ordeal, President of AMSPON, Mr. Yaya Babatunde, said: “I was in my Church in Ajegunle when I heard the explosive sound that shook my Church as well. After the first service, I rushed to my house in Satellite Town to be sure my house was safe. Thereafter, I proceeded to Abule Ado to check on some of my members living in that area to be sure they were safe too but only to find out that they were affected.”
Truck driver not dead
It was gathered that the driver, who reportedly drove the truck laden with granites that caused the explosion, is on the run, contrary to insinuation that he could have been burnt in the resultant inferno.
As at yesterday, there were moves to ascertain the plate number of the burnt truck.
Vanguard reliably gathered that the burnt plate number would be taken for analysis to ascertain its owner and by extension, lead to the arrest of the fleeing driver.
How incident happened ― NEMA
But the acting Coordinator, Lagos Territorial Office, National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, Mr Ibrahim Farinloye, said the pressure exerted on the pipeline by the tipper laden with granite, caused the explosion.
Farinloye, stated that three survivors were rescued on Monday, adding that three more bodies-all females, were recovered while emergency workers were excavating some of the collapsed buildings.
The NEMA boss said: “When the pressure became too much, the pipeline forced itself out to escape and that was why the sky was filled with grey smoke that led to explosion before the fire.”
Lagos govt sets-up N2bn relief fund
However, following collateral damage caused by the unfortunate explosion, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State has set up a N2 billion emergency relief fund to alleviate losses suffered by victims.
Sanwo-Olu also announced the donation of a N250 million as the capital base for the relief fund.
I spent sometime today at the site of the tragic incident at Abule Ado. To give immediate relief and support to the victims of the disaster, I have set up a N2 billion Relief Fund to be chaired by @drobafemihamzat. The state government has put in N250m into the fund immediately. pic.twitter.com/FveykbApVF
— Babajide Sanwo-Olu (@jidesanwoolu) March 16, 2020
The governor, accompanied by his deputy, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, stated this when he led a high powered delegation to the scene for an on-the-spot assessment.
Sanwo-Olu, who commiserated with the victims, disclosed that three account numbers at three different banks had been opened for well-meaning Nigerians and people to assist the government in assisting the victims.
He said: “I spent some time at the site of the tragic incident at Abule Ado. To give immediate relief and support to the victims of the disaster, I have set up a N2 billion relief fund to be chaired by Dr Obafemi Hamzat. The state government has put N250 million into the fund immediately.”
“This incident is certainly beyond what the government can independently pull off and we will count on your support to contribute to this fund as we work to provide succour for the victims of this unfortunate incident. I appeal to everyone to be a part of helping to provide this much-needed relief.”
Sanwo-Olu, who described the incident as unprecedented said: “I have never seen this level of devastation before in the state. It is like a war-torn zone.”
Sanwo-Olu briefs Buhari on explosion
Today, I met with HE President @MBuhari to brief him on the unfortunate incident at Abule Ado.
The core plan is to provide relief, rebuild the affected areas and avoid future occurrence. pic.twitter.com/1HB2jN21MB
— Babajide Sanwo-Olu (@jidesanwoolu) March 16, 2020
Similarly, Governor Sanwo-Olu, yesterday, briefed President Muhammadu Buhari on the unfortunate Abule-Ado explosion.
The Governor’s meeting with President Buhari was at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Speaking with State House correspondents, Sanwo-Olu said: “I had very rear opportunity to brief Mr. President about the very unfortunate gas/pipeline explosion in Lagos State yesterday.
“Mr. President was very gracious to receive me and to ask me about where we are and what had happened. I was able to show him pictorially the extent and the level of destruction of what happened yesterday (Sunday). It is a very unfortunate incident, is not something that anyone could have imagined, you needed to be there to see the level of destruction.”
NNPC right of way intact — Kyari
Meanwhile, contrary to widespread speculations, Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Mele Kyari, has confirmed that the explosion was caused by gas cylinder leakages that ignited the wild-spread fire.
Kyari, during an on-the-spot assessment, yesterday, said the fire was exacerbated by buildings and factories by gas vendors who built on NNPC pipelines Right of Way, ROW.
He said:” I arrived Lagos to make an on the spot assessment of the explosion that ignited the NNPC product pipeline fire. The explosions caused by a spark that ignited fire from the extensively charged atmosphere that emanated from gas cylinder leakages.
“The NNPC pipeline ROW encroachment by gas handling vendors and construction of houses enabled the explosion and aggravated the impact. We are working with the Lagos State government and security agencies to clear the ROW.”
Incident beyond pipeline explosion ― Aare Adams
Also at the scene, the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams, said the disaster was beyond the pipeline explosion.
None of our students died ― Bethlehem school
Meanwhile, the management of Bethlehem International Catholic School, Abule Ado, yesterday, disclosed that none of the students died in the explosion that claimed several lives on Sunday morning.
Speaking with Vanguard at the scene, the Director for Education for Catholic Arch Diocese of Lagos State, Monsior Jerome Oduntan, said no student died during the explosion.
Monsior Oduntan said: “We have a population of 268 students, because of the stampede, 50 of them sustained injuries, we took them to the hospital and they were treated and discharged and all the students are at home with their parents. But we still have two students that are undergoing treatment at the naval hospital and one at the Lagos State Teaching Hospital, LASUTH.
“Three students are undergoing treatment at the moment. Not even a single student died. And no student is missing.
“However, I am still gathering information on the number of staff yet to be accounted for, so I won’t be able to tell you how many we are looking for.”
“We have about 80 staff including teaching and non-teaching staff. I can only confirm two staff that died yesterday, (Sunday), the administrator, that is the principal and a female security officer. Those are the ones I can confirm for now.
“At the moment, we are looking for four staff, who are still missing. We lost two staff, who are in the mortuary because it was on Sunday we had domestic staff who were on duty,” he said.
Catholic Church confirms death of Alokha
But on his part, the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos Archdiocese, Most Rev. Alfred Martins, yesterday, confirmed the death of the school’s Administrator, Rev. Sister Henrietta Alokha in Sunday’s explosion.
Lamenting the massive explosion which rocked Abule Ado Area, the Archbishop said apart from the Administrator, an unnamed female security guard died in the process of taking care that the students were safe.
Martins said: “On Sunday 15th March 2020, there was a massive explosion at the Abule Ado area of Lagos which led to the collapse of many structures in the area.
“We do not have an official duly investigated explanation for the explosion yet. All we know is that a truck accident was involved; the Pipeline going through the community was involved as well as a stack of gas cylinders. All these together by some series of cause and effect are said to be the cause of the devastating explosion which very badly affected our Bethlehem Girls College, Abule Ado as well as many other buildings in the vicinity.
“This sad incident occurred while the students and staff were at Sunday Mass.
Afenifere, ERA/FoEN call for probe
Meanwhile, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere and the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, ERA/FoEN, yesterday, called on the Federal Government to carry out a forensic investigation of the immediate and remote cause of the Abule Ado explosion.
Afenifere, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, said the group “is distressed by the Lagos explosion that killed an unspecified number of people on Sunday and destroyed yet to be enumerated property.”
Odumakin said: “Our hearts go to all the families who are victims of this great tragedy as we pray for the repose of all souls who perished in the sad occurrence.
We call for an open inquiry into this incident coming three weeks after the Chief of Army staff announced the presence of Boko Haram in Lagos.
“The explosion, targeting a missionary girls’ school and the impact of it being felt kilometres from the scene with cars parked at a far distance having their windscreens shattered make us reject the different causes the explosion has been ascribed to without any investigation.
“We hold our breath until a forensic investigation is done to ascertain the real cause of this explosion that has left so many families bereaved. We mourn.”
Explosion is suspiciously different ― ERA/FoEN
Similarly, ERA/FoEN, in a statement in Lagos, also called on Governor Sanwo-Olu to set up a Special Task Force on pipelines security to prevent ceaseless pipeline accidents in the state.
In a statement by its Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, ERA/FoEN said: “There is something suspiciously different about this explosion. The scale of destruction is nothing like any of the pipeline explosions we have monitored and documented for several decades.
“The Sunday incident’s scale of destruction could only be likened to military-grade explosions or aerial bombardment. We can’t treat this casually as an accident caused by a truck.”
TUC commiserates with families
Meanwhile, the Trade Union Congress, TUC, has sympathized with the families of those that lost their lives in the gas explosion at the Abule Ado area of Lagos state.
In a statement by its President, Quadri Olaleye and the Secretary-General, Musa Lawal, the union decried the frequent case of the explosion which it said, is avoidable if adequate measures are taken noting that the pipeline has been there before those building where erected.
The statement reads in part: “The union further expresses fears of imminent dangers of the houses built under high tensions and warns that the authorities should look into the issue to avoid future occurrences. The frequent gas and pipeline explosion may not be unconnected from the desperate attempt of bunkerers, who want to make money without thinking of the consequences. The union, however, called on government at all levels to create more jobs in the country.”
PDP laments spate of explosions
Also reacting, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has expressed shock over Sunday’s gas explosion in Abule-Ado which claimed more than a dozen lives.
This is even as the party said the spate of the explosion in the commercial city of Lagos was becoming too dangerous for silence on the part of well-meaning Nigerians.
In a statement by its spokesman, Mr Kola Ologbodiyan, the PDP called “for a rejig of the national emergency response in a manner that will educate Nigerians on how to prevent disasters.
“Our party also holds that such an overhaul of the nation’s emergency management must strengthen quick responses to disasters by respective agencies of government and volunteer groups.
“The PDP insists that drastic measures must be adopted to check recurring disasters in the country.
“The party laments that the explosion has again brought sorrow, anguish and pain to families who are now suffering bereavement, injuries, and homelessness, loss of property and means of livelihood.”
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