A lone accident involving a PMS-laden tanker, which bursts into flames Tuesday night, left a gridlock that completely locked down traffic on the busy road, stretching into Lagos metropolitan roads. PRECIOUS IGBONWELUNDU and OMOLOLA AFOLABI chronicle motorists’ harrowing experience.
Several parts of Lagos metropolis were completely locked down on Wednesday. No thanks to the tanker explosion that followed a lone accident around Arepo on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway on Tuesday.
A white DAF truck carrying 33,000 litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) fell on the Long Bridge and bursts into flames, bringing traffic on the nation’s critical road to a standstill.
Despite efforts by the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and other emergency responders in Lagos and Ogun State to contain the situation, the gridlock saw scores of motorists spending over 10 hours in traffic as the hold up extended to other parts of Lagos, locking several arterial routes yesterday.
It was gathered that motorists going to work were trapped around Berger, Ogba, Ikeja, Ikorodu Road, Agege Motor Road for hours.
Some of the motorists, who slept behind the wheel in the traffic, took to social media to demand urgent action to stop the frequent fall or explosion of articulated vehicles, especially on the Lagos end of Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
The Nation Editorial Page Editor, Mr. Sanya Oni, who left the office on Tuesday about 11 pm, got home at 8:30 am yesterday.
On his Facebook page, Oni, at different times, wrote: “Hell has come down 3:05 am and no respite in sight. Welcome to the state of nature.
“Finally got home 8:30am after a gruelling 10-hour ordeal from Matori to Arepo!”
Oni, who could not make it to work, said he was treating pains and stress occasioned by long hours in traffic.
A Twitter user, Kolade Ayeni, said he returned to work from the traffic on Wednesday, as he never got home the day before.
“I didn’t get home on Tuesday night. Trapped at Berger, I just disembarked and boarded another bus back to work, about 5 am on Wednesday,” he wrote.
Another user, Toolz Ajibike, said: “I got home around 1 am, slept for four hours and back on the same road. Lagos-Ibadan blocked, Berger blocked. I am still expected to be productive at work today (Wednesday), and go the extra mile in discharging my duties.
Ishola said he spent over six hours in the traffic.
“I got to Berger from Mowe at dawn, because I set out at exactly 5 am.The tanker that got burnt has really weakened the bridge and it can give in at any time,” he said.
Olalekan Abiola described the traffic as annoying.
“My fellow drivers that set out from Ibadan at 7 am are just landing now at 1 pm. The situation here is terrible,” he said.
A transporter, Mutiu Asimiyu, said the traffic has affected his daily trip.
“I left Ibadan around 6 am and I’m just getting to Lagos. The incident has sapped us of both our business and energy. As you can see, I am sweating profusely. I have only gone once and I don’t think I will go a second round. But on a normal day, I would have gone on the third round but the traffic really denied us of that,” he said.
Ismaila Olayemi said the explosion occurred about 8:45 pm and it was burning till this (yesterday) morning.
“It was a total standstill from 9 pm till the early hours of Wednesday. I was in traffic for six hours. People coming to Lagos from Sagamu took off at 5:30 am and got to Lagos at 11 am for a 35 minutes journey,” he said.
Zonal Head of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) Mabunmi Abiola narrated how the fire started; “We saw the accident, which occurred at 8:45 pm. All the vehicles were stopped and we called the emergency team. The firefighters made efforts to put out the fire. After exhausting their water about 10 pm, the fire erupted again and we battled it till about 7:45 am. The traffic was very heavy – from Kara to Mowe. The traffic extended to Alapere, Ketu and other connecting roads in the Lagos metropolis. Traffic got fairer only when the burnt tanker was evacuated from the road. We made use of counter-foil to control vehicular movements but some motorists were still non-compliant; some of them drove against the traffic.”
A man simply called Ayewa, who lamented that the night bus he boarded to Abuja from Maza-Maza about 10 pm on Tuesday was still in traffic at Mowe about 7:20 am.
“I entered a bus last night going to Abuja, departed about 10 pm from Maza-Maza, right now I am still in Lagos! Lagos-Ibadan express is blocked,” he wrote.
A commuter on Ikorodu road, Faith Olamini, said he trekked from Maryland to Ojota because everywhere was blocked, adding that those inside vehicles were envying pedestrians.
Benjamin Adindu lamented the absence of Lagos State bus services and commercial buses, saying passengers going to 7 Up, Ojota, Iyana Oworo were trapped.
According to Lawal Dolapo, it was the fourth time in two weeks articulated vehicles would have accident on that route, with the resultant bedlam affecting Ojodu-Berger and environs.
Oloye Gbadebo said: “Lagosians often think they are very hardworking, but the truth is that we spend the productive hours on roads. Lagos-Ibadan express is an example; often people get to their offices and homes completely exhausted.”
Speaking on the lone accident, FRSC Ogun Sector Commander Clement Oladele said it was caused by mechanical/electrical fault, adding that no life was lost.
He said the driver and two motor boys, who were in the truck, fled to safety before the fire escalated.
According to Oladele, it took so long to evacuate the debris and reopen the road because the tanker kept re-igniting.
“FRSC operatives mobilised promptly to the scene for rescue operations. Fire Services were equally invited to extinguish the inferno.
“The rescue operation continued till 3 am as the inferno kept re-igniting after being extinguished. This hampered removal of the debris, thus affecting the opening of that part of the road to motorists.
“The inferno impaired traffic and caused gridlock around the long bridge, which affected motorists, especially those driving out of Lagos after the day’s job.
“To cushion the effect on motorists, FRSC temporarily diverted traffic around OPIC, outwards Lagos to one lane of the inward Lagos-bound traffic. The FRSC admonished motorists to obey traffic instructions from officials around the crash scene and urged them to drive cautiously and restrict themselves to only the lane traffic was temporarily diverted to.
“The affected road was closed to traffic to prevent fire affecting other vehicles.”
He said motorists not closed to Mowe and Ibafo were also advised to use alternative routes.
“Alternative routes recommended to such motorists include those travelling from Ibadan to turn from Sagamu Interchange into Abeokuta to connect Itori, Ifo up to Ota to connect Lagos by Iyana Ipaja.
“Those travelling out of Lagos this morning could use Victoria Island by Ajah to Ijebu Ode to continue their journey.
“However, motorists around Mowe, Ibafo and Warewa axis using the temporary diversion point on the Long Bridge should restrict their speed to maximum of 50 kilometres per hour … while the rescue operation continues.
“Operators of vehicles used for transporting highly inflammable petroleum products should operate in strict conformity with safety and operation standards prescribed by the 1957 United Nations Agreement Concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR), which Nigeria acceded to as a Contracting Party,” he said.
FRSC Zone RS2 Command, comprising Ogun and Lagos states, said it had removed the wreckage of the tanker.
Mr Samuel Obayemi, FRSC zonal commander, said: “The fire was put out, carcass of the burnt tanker successfully removed from the road and pushed down to the foot of the Long Bridge.
“The debris that could puncture tyres or affect other vehicles had also been cleared from the road.
“The road is hereby open to use. Motorists are, therefore, advised to tread with caution.
“Do not speed beyond the construction area speed limits of 50 km per hour and maintain lane discipline,” Obayemi, an assistant corps marshall, said.
According to him, FRSC operatives are still on ground managing the backlog of traffic.
The FRSC chief told NAN there was no casualty from the inferno.
On the cause of the incident, Obayemi said: “We are still investigating. The laden tanker fell and caught fire in the process. The cause of the fall is what is being investigated.”