Hamza Idris is one of the brave young men who risked their lives to rescue others when a petrol tanker fire occurred on Otedola bridge along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway on Thursday.
The fire left no fewer than 54 vehicles burnt and many lives lost.
In this interview with Yusuf Mohammed of the Next Edition Idris, a “Keke NAPEP” driver, who is an Igala from Kogi State, speaks about the rescue operation and the pain of watching helplessly as human beings roasted in the inferno. Excerpts:
As an eyewitness, what would you say about the petrol tanker fire that claimed many lives on Thursday?
Right now, all I can say is to thank God for my life. I am grateful for everything he has done for me. The things I saw on Thursday will live with me for the rest of my life. It was a terrible experience which one can never pray for.
What was the experience like? What did you see?
It was a bad experience. I saw many dead bodies. Human beings burnt like chickens. It was a very bad experience.
What were the efforts to rescue some of the victims like? Were you involved in any way?
Yes, I was involved. I helped to rescue some people. Many people came out to rescue, but we could not do much, we only tried our little best given the situation. But generally, I think if other people had participated in helping some of the victims, the number of casualties would have reduced.
Why do you say that?
I say that because instead of helping in the rescue operation, many people stayed back and were taking pictures and recording videos of burning vehicles. I find that to be very bad. I think saving lives should have been more important than taking pictures and recording the videos.
Some people were more interested in taking the pictures?
Yes. For instance, I was in a position to take captivating pictures, pictures of people burning and pictures of burning vehicles. I had my phone on me but what mattered to me was to try and rescue as many people as possible. To God be the glory, I was able to help some people out. I wish I had the chance to rescue more people. If those taking pictures and recording videos had also helped, more people would have been saved. The one that touched me the most was a woman who had twins; they were girls.
Tell us about that.
The woman was in her car with both of them. When the fire started, she threw one of them into a gutter.
How old were they?
I am not sure, but I think they should be between 10 and 11 years. She was able to rescue one of them even though she was burning. The gutter was also filled with petrol that spilled from the tanker. After picking the child, we carried her to the estate.
What about the other twin?
The other twin was not lucky. She died in the car.
Some school children were said to have died in a bus. Did you witness it?
Yes, there was a school bus that carried pupils. They were like five inside the bus. All of them got burnt and died.
Did the driver escape?
The driver also died. Nobody survived in the vehicle.
Aside from the school bus that had children in it and the twins, did you witness any other death?
Yes! There was one man that drove a Mazda bus from Ketu; he died. His passengers however managed to escape. The driver worebabanriga. He died in a canal.
Also, at the back of an uncompleted building, I saw a man on the floor. His body was swollen and his flesh peeled. I think he ran from the fire to that spot. I carried him into the estate. He was shouting at the top of his voice for me to leave him.
It was a terrible experience. On that day, I was wet, not with sweat or blood, but with fat of people roasted in the fire. I don’t pray to witness such a disaster anymore in my life.