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13 Oct 2018

Nursing Mother, Soldiers & More: Pipeline Explosion Burn Over 50 People To Death In Abia

Tragedy struck yesterday as a pipeline belonging to Pipelines and Product Marketing Company, PPMC, exploded and burnt over 50 persons to death in Aba, Abia State.

It was a horrific to behold as lifeless bodies of residents and indigenes of Umu Nwankwo, Umuimo Njiko Umunna and Umuaduru communities in Osisioma Local Government Area of Abia State, off Enugu-Aba-Port Harcourt Expressway liter the scene where Petroleum Motor Spirit (PMS) pipeline explosions that occurred in the early hours of Friday.

According to The Nation, the explosion occurred on an abandoned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s (NNPC) supplying PMS from Osisioma depot to Enugu and Kaduna which passes through Umuimo and Umuaduru respectively.

While unconfirmed reports have it that more than 50 persons including nursing mother, soldiers and other members of the community were burnt in the unfortunate incident, our reporter who visited the two sites counted about 10 corpses lying at the Umuaduru community PMS pipeline explosion.

But some of the early callers to the Umuaduru scene told our reporter that some members of the community who were able to identify their dead relation evacuated their dead ones before the arrival of security agencies at the scene.

At Umuimo, a source told our reporter that over six persons died in the community.

Some of the injured victims who sustained various degree of burnt were said to have been taken to an undisclosed hospital where they are currently receiving medical attention.
scene of the explosion
But a report that filtered in Aba at about 3pm has it that some of the victims died hours after they were brought to the hospital.

According to our reporter, Chuks Benson Uzoije, a native of Umu Nwankwo of Umuimo in Njiko Umunna autonomous community, Osisioma, "I am one of the Pipeline guards and I work with UTM Offshore Limited.

“As we were on duty around 8pm, we got information that there is leakage on the line. All the surveillance gathered and started calling the people that are in-charge from Port Harcourt to Kaduna.

“They told us that government is not doing anything with the old line; that the attention of government is on the new line. They said that government didn’t pay them to repair the two lines unless government wants them to renegotiate their terms of contracts.

"For over three years or there about, the old pipeline has been bad and it is long that they carried repair work on the old one.

“Instead of pumping through the line which they maintain, they now pumped through the abandoned line. Everywhere there was leakage, the vapour comes from there to cover the area and by 4am when the pipeline caught fire, it didn’t spare anything around including my house.

"Nothing was brought out of the house. The only thing that came out of the house is this cloth, rain boot and apron that I wore to work with, nothing else was saved.

“Property worth millions of naira was consumed in the inferno. My tenant and his family members sustained various degree of burnt.

“We tried all we could to ensure that no one took the advantage to go in and scoop fuel, but how we ended up having this damage is what I can’t explain. The Fire Service personnel came, but by the time they arrived, the deed had already been done.”

Another source who spoke in confidence to our reporter called for inquiry into the incident.

According to the source, “information came yesterday at about 3pm that there will be pumping of fuel in the old pipeline. The people were fully informed that there will be fuel passage through the pipe.

"That was why a lot of people who got the information went into the market to purchase empty jerry cans and by midnight they set out to various points where they had already marked to scoop the fuel from.

“If you look round, you will see that they all came with plastic materials and wheelbarrows which they will use to take the fuel back to their various houses. They are aware of the dangers of using iron materials around the pipeline, that was why they prepared ahead of time to come with torch and other materials.

“I was not there, but someone who was lucky to have escaped from the inferno told people that the explosion was due to the heat from the machines that the soldiers came with.

“The army authority should ask its men what they were doing there at that point in time. While they should also ask the people in-charge of pumping product at the Osisioma depot why they should pump fuel in an old line that is no longer in use?

"For me, this is a clear sabotage to the economy of the country and a planned deal with someone in NNPC because the information was that, the people already knew that the product would be on that line at that particular time of the night.”

It was gathered that soldiers barred people from having access to the scene of the incident until they retrieved a rifle suspected to belong to one of the soldiers and later made away with a pumping machine which was suspected to be using by the vandals to scoop PMS from the pipeline.

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