Umuokpo in Amairinabuo Community of Obingwa Local Government Area of Abia State was thrown into a state of mourning weekend, when a fuel tanker exploded, killing several people and injuring others.
Unconfirmed report put the death toll at 20 persons who were burnt to death when they rushed to scoop fuel from the fallen tanker, while others, including 10 persons, said to be in a precarious condition in a mission hospital in the area, sustained various degrees of burns.
However, another source said only three persons had been confirmed dead.
The incident, which happened at Kilometre 10 on the Aba/Ikot Ekpene Highway last Friday, was said to have occurred when a Mack fuel tanker with the registration number ABIA: XA 976 KKE, heading towards Aba, got stuck in mud as a result of bad road condition.
The driver, in an attempt to move the tanker, hit a towing van and in the process of pulling it out, the tanker fell on its side and spilled its content.
Immediately the incident occurred, some villagers were said to have rushed to the scene to scoop fuel.
The incident happened right in front of Chief Friday Erengwa, a community leader; he narrates what happened: “Immediately the incident occurred, villagers rushed to scoop fuel and despite the fact that I came out from my house to warn them against the dangers inherent, they did not listen.
“Even the driver of the tanker made every effort to dissuade the villagers from scooping fuel from the tanker, but they turned a deaf ear.”
Like a scene from a horror movie, a commuter bus going to Aba from Ikot Ekpene, attempted to pass through the scene of the fallen tanker even as the villagers were too busy scooping the spilled petroleum product. It was in the process that the bus fell into a crater on the road, its exhaust pipe cracked a surface on the road which ignited a fire that immediately spread to the nearby fallen tanker and burnt everything within its range.