“There are four adults dead—three males and one female—and a 10-year-old boy died in the incident,” Ibrahim Farinloye of the National Emergency Management Agency said, adding that rescue operation is still ongoing.
The fire broke out after a cylinder exploded at a gas shop in the densely populated Mushin area of Lagos.
It was extinguished in about one hour and “we were able to rescue 10 people alive and they have been treated and discharged on the spot,” said Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, director-general of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency.
The cause of the explosion is not known yet but authorities are suspecting one of the gas cylinders exploded as a result of a fire close to the gas shop and work being done on one of the cylinders.
“Out of the four bodies (one was) a woman who was said to be frying (food items) while Sodiq (another of the victims) was operating on a cylinder,” Farinloye said.
At the scene of the explosion, a crowd lined behind a barricade as rescue workers and some residents carried away the gas cylinders left within the premises while remains of the vehicles destroyed were packed at one corner.
One of those killed is said to be a motorcyclist who was caught in the massive fire as he drove past the scene. The fire destroyed three shops, six shanties, and about 12 vehicles, said Olajide Ogabi of the Lagos State Fire Service.
He faulted the location of the gas shop within the residential area and along a power line and said the shop was once closed by the state government because of its location.
Gas explosions are common in Africa’s most populous country, especially in Lagos, a city of more than 14 million people. One of the most recent was in October 2020 when an explosion at a gas station killed eight people and razed many buildings.
Two months ago, the Lagos state government set up a team to monitor outlets where gas is stored in commercial quantity and carry out a safety audit in the state. So far, 1,850 places were surveyed out of which 15 were closed for not complying with safety standards, according to Lanre Mojola, director-general Lagos State Safety Commission.
In July this year, federal lawmakers in Nigeria asked authorities to design a strategy to regulate the use of old gas cylinders, arguing that “the continued use of old cylinders can cause explosions especially in poorly controlled environments.”
A committee has been formed to investigate the incident and look at “what led to this,” Oke-Osanyintolu of the Lagos emergency services agency said.
By Chinedu Asadu