By Chimaobi Nwaiwu
No fewer than 69 persons were burnt to death last night as a petrol-laden tanker, descending from Army Barracks side of Onitsha-Enugu Expressway, lost control, rammed into the Asaba Motor Park at Upper Iweka, Onitsha, and exploded.
Eleven vehicles, mostly commuter buses and two motorcycles inside Asaba Park, and the fuel tanker were completely burnt to ashes.
Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State and one of his commissioners wept when they visited the scene of the accident. The governor told relatives of the victims to take heart and promised that the state would help in ensuring that those who survived were well taken care of.
The Nigerian Red Cross Society officials were the first to arrive the scene of the incident. The society’s Chairman, Professor Peter Kathy, said: “Presently, we have 69 people burnt to death and 30 casualties. “The dead have been evacuated to various mortuaries in Onitsha. “The tanker driver lost his break while descending the hill from Boromeo and Army Barracks end of the Onitsha-Enugu Expressway towards Upper Iweka.
“Instead of looking for a wide gutter to break his speed, he veered into a park, where commercial vehicles were taking on passengers. Most of the people that died were inside vehicles in the park.
“If the driver of the tanker were alive, he would have been arraigned in the court because it is multiple murder. He was reckless. He knew he was fully loaded with petrol and yet he decided to direct his vehicle into a motor park.
“He does not care for human lives. How can you veer into a park where you know buses were filled with people, when the road is wide enough for you to control your vehicle?”
When Vanguard visited the scene at about 5.30pm, all the Divisional Police Officers in Onitsha, including Rabiu Garba of Fegge Police Station; Emeka Ugwu of Okpoko Police Station and Cosmas Eze of Inland Town Police Station, and their Central Police Station, Onitsha, counterpart, Isah Abubakar, were involved in rescue operation.
Men of the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, and Willie Work Force were also on ground.