No fewer than 70 persons perished in a multiple road accident that occurred yesterday at Uromi Junction in Agbor along the ever busy Agbor-Asaba highway in Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State.
It was a gory and horrifying scene as the fire that engulfed a number of vehicles including two oil tankers, Lagos-bound luxury bus and four saloon cars as well as four motorcycles was still raging when THISDAY visited the area yesterday afternoon.
One eyewitness account said the accident occurred around 10 am yesterday when a fuel tanker that was trying to overtake another trailer that had broken down at Uromi Junction of the highway lost control and fell, thus spilling its content on the road.
According to the eyewitness, this immediately sparked off fire, which engulfed all the vehicles and motorcycles around the trailer.
Many of the victims, which he said included pregnant women, were burnt beyond recognition. Several others were also seriously injured.
By 12 noon yesterday, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) officials were seen battling to evacuate the charred remains of the victims strewn all over Uromi Junction.
Another account blamed the accident on the luxury bus, alleging that the bus was probably rushing back to Lagos from Onitsha, unknown to the driver of the vehicle that a fuel tanker was negotiating a U-turn at Uromi Junction.
?Before he realised this, it was too late. The vehicle lost control because the driver could no longer stop the bus. The bus hit the tanker and fuel started gushing out and then a loud explosion,? the eyewitness said.
The eyewitness said 99 per cent of those that died were either travelers or passengers waiting for vehicles to travel for Christmas.
The South-east Zonal Commander of FRSC, Mr. Ndi Zakari, who led a team of officers and men of the commission to the accident scene, however, told THISDAY that the accident must have been caused by the foggy weather as motorists find it difficult coping with visibility during the Harmattan Season along the highway.
He said the tanker driver might not have seen the broken down trailer, causing him to ram his vehicle into it (broken down vehicle) while other vehicles also followed suit.
The Delta State FRSC Sector Commander, Mr. Oluwasusi Familoni, confirmed the accident.
He said: "Yes, we are aware of it, it was a fatal accident. For now, we are still rescuing some people, we cannot say for now the number of the people that died and the vehicles involved."
Those who sustained serious injuries have been rushed to the General Hospital, Agbor and other neighboring hospitals while several bodies mostly unrecognised have also been deposited at the mortuary.
FRSC officials were seen battling to remove the wrecks of the vehicles to ease the long build-up of traffic that had already built up along the road.
Meanwhile, the state Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan has directed that all the celebrations for the Christmas season slated for last night be cancelled as a mark of empathy for the departed.
The state Commissioner for Information Oma Djebah said as soon as Uduaghan heard of the sad incident, he immediately put inter-ministerial machinery in place for rapid response, evacuation and restoration of normalcy on the Agbor-Asaba highway.
REPORT below by Guardian Newspapers 2008-12-24
30 die in Delta State auto crashes
From Hendrix Oliomogbe (Asaba) and Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu (Benin)
IT was with happiness that they all set out for their different destinations. While some headed for the Eastern part of the country for the Christmas festival, the others were on their way to Abuja but the cold hand of death met them at almost the same spot on the busy Benin-Agbor expressway, at Agbor, Delta State.
When the smoke cleared about 30 people lay dead in two separate auto crashes on the Benin-Agbor expressway but the Zonal Commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) in charge of Edo, Delta and Anambra states, Mr. Nda Zakari, dropped a hint that the death toll might run into hundreds as almost everybody on the luxury bus was burnt to ashes.
They were roasted to death in the two major road accidents that occurred in less than 13 hours. There was a heavy hold-up on the road due to the fatal accident as it was closed for more than nine hours. Motorists had to ply the old Lagos/Asaba Road as it was the only way to escape from the bedlam.
The first accident, which occurred on Monday, December 22, 2008 left about 12 passengers dead on an 18-seater mini bus. The accident, which occurred at the junction of Mariere Street and Baleke Street busy dual carriageway involved the Abuja-bound vehicle which was coming from Onitsha, Anambra State.
According to a source, the driver of the 18-seater bus was trying to avoid a water tanker that was making a U-turn by Mariere Street junction along the expressway when the vehicle suddenly skidded off the road.
The source explained that the driver of the ill-fated bus lost control and crashed into the deep gutter by the side of the road and the fuel tank caught fire in the process.
He said that it was only six of the 18 passengers on board that escaped, while the remaining 12 were burnt beyond recognition. The Commander of the Agbor unit of FRSC, Mr. Anthony Ogbodo, attributed the accident to over- speeding and over-loading. Ogbodo disclosed that four of the six survivors did not sustain any injury, adding that the two passengers that were injured in the accident had been rushed to the Central Hospital, Agbor for prompt medical attention.
In the second carnage, which occurred yesterday at about 7.25am, at the Faith in God and Felco Filling Stations, about 500 metres away from the scene of the earlier accident about 18 persons were again roasted alive.
The multiple accident involved two fuel tankers that were each loaded with diesel and petrol, a minibus bus, two salon cars, a Mercedes 190 car, a luxury bus and four motorbikes.
On the scene to coordinate rescue effort was Zakari who said that the accident was a case of impatience on the part of the second petrol tanker driver. He explained that two cars ran into a broken down luxury bus which was parked carelessly by the side of the road while the second petrol tanker collided with the first fuel tanker whose driver apparently stopped to find out what was going on. He said the impact led to a heavy explosion, which burnt the luxury bus and other vehicles in the vicinity including the four motorcycles.
Zakari said that only six passengers escaped from the luxury bus, adding :"We cannot ascertain the actual number of people that are dead because some of the passengers were burnt to ashes as only four bodies burnt beyond recognition were recovered and taken to the Agbor Central Hospital’s mortuary."