Lukman Kareem squirmed on his sickbed at Solad Hospital, Baruwa, Ipaja area of Lagos, unsure of which side of his aching body to lie on. When he eventually managed to raise his head, it was a sorry sight to behold. His face, back and arms smothered with burns. The more he struggled to utter some words, the harder it was; he could barely recognise anyone around him.
The 48-year-old electrician was among eight persons who sustained injuries in the explosion that rocked Bestroof Gas Station on Cardoso Road, Baruwa, on Thursday.
The explosion left huge losses in its trail, claiming six lives and damaging 25 residential buildings, 15 shops, a school and a church.
Perhaps, Kareem and other victims could have been spared of the pains and losses caused by the tragedy if the state government, which confirmed to City Round, that the firm didn’t have a planning permit, had stopped its operations.
Our correspondent, who visited the explosion scene, noticed that the Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority marked the gas station on September 10, 2020. LASPPPA put another mark on the facility on Thursday with the inscription, “sealed.”
However, operation continued at the cooking gas filling station despite the September marking and protests by residents of the community against its siting in a residential area.
A 30-metric-tonne LPG tanker discharged gas into the underground tank around 4am on Thursday. After off-loading the contents, the workers reportedly had difficulty closing the valve, resulting in a leakage. A generator used to power the premises was said to have ignited the fire.
“The explosion started around 5am. Some neighbours saw smoke and raised the alarm. They woke us up and everybody ran for dear life. It exploded afterwards. We called firefighters but they came around 7am.
“A tanker brought the gas on Wednesday. It was faulty and parked in front of the gate of the station. They offloaded the gas at night. I learnt that when they were done, they could not close the valve and the gas started leaking.”
A bricklayer, Samson Bankole, was inconsolable when he met with our correspondent. His neighbour, identified simply as Iya Saidat, operating a provision store, was among the deceased victims.
He told City Round that the late widow had initially escaped from her room but returned to pick some money she wanted to use to repay a microfinance bank from which she took a loan.
Bankole said, “I am a bricklayer. Whenever I don’t go to work, I stay in her (Iya Saidat’s) shop. We were so close that people even thought we were family members. I was awake around 4am and came outside. I perceived gas odour and saw Majeed, the woman’s child, outside. He was trying to wake people up.
“She had already come out but was complaining about her money trapped inside. We told her that money was a minor thing. I didn’t know she would return inside to pick the money. She said it was the money for a LAPO loan she was repaying.