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Lagos explosion: relatives search for missing family members

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The death toll in the Abule-Ado explosion in Lagos rose to 20 on Monday, as many families continued to search for their missing relatives.

Our correspondents also learnt that 50 pupils of the Bethlehem Girls College were injured in the incident.

We had reported that an explosion, which rocked the community on Sunday, left 17 people dead.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation had said the explosion was caused by a truck, which hit a stack of gas cylinders.

The impact of the explosion destroyed over 50 houses and many cars parked in the area.

Boarding pupils of the Bethlehem Girls College were trapped when the building, where a Mass was being celebrated collapsed. The Principal of the school, Rev. Sr. Henrietta Alokha, was killed while rescuing the schoolgirls.

One of our correspondents, who visited the scene on Monday, gathered that three more corpses were recovered from the rubble of the college building.

It was gathered that the deceased were two cooks in the school, one of whom was identified simply as Irene, and a security guard.

The Director General, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, while speaking at the scene, said the death toll had risen to 20.

He said, “Fifty-seven persons were rescued and eight discharged from hospital. One is still at the Intensive Care Unit of the Naval Hospital. Three bodies were recovered this morning, bringing the number of casualties to 20.”

More details also emerged on the identities of those who died in the explosion.

A newly-wed couple, Emmanuel and Chisom Udoakonobi, who were supposed to travel to Canada today (Tuesday), were said to have been killed after the pillar of their building fell on their car.

We gathered that Chisom was three months’ pregnant.

One of the tenants in the house, Ademola, who stated that he moved into the house two weeks ago, said he escaped death by a whisker.

He said, “I saw my girlfriend off to the bus stop around 7.30am. When I came back, I could not recognise the house again, as there were flames everywhere.

“I am left with the only clothes on me. My certificates and other valuables have been destroyed by the fire that followed the explosion. I don’t know where to start from now. But I thank God that my life was spared. A lot of people lost their lives and some people are still trapped in the building.”

We gathered that the Chairman of the Abule-Ado Community Development Association, Obi Chikezie, his wife and their son also died in the explosion.

It was gathered that the son, identified simply as Joseph, was planning his wedding when the tragedy struck.

A business partner of the late Obi, who spoke on condition of anonymity, to us that he spoke with him hours before the explosion.

He said, “We had been communicating since Saturday, because he wanted me to supply granite to one of the sites he was working on; around 6am on Sunday, I called him to send one of the boys, who worked for him, to pick the truck driver at the gate to the site.

I called him back around 7.30am to ask if the truck had dropped the granite and he said yes. Around 9am, I heard a loud noise from my house on the 7th Avenue and I thought it was something else that happened, not knowing that it was an explosion.

“I later saw flames going up and I tried calling Obi’s number, but it was not going through. I called other people that I know in the area, but none of their numbers went through.

One of the victims of the explosion at the hospital

“I came here and saw that Obi’s building had been brought down, while he, his wife and son were trapped in their car. This is a sad one, because plans had been made for his son’s wedding. The son had done the traditional marriage.”

We’ll resettle pupils in other schools – Martins

The Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, owners of the Bethlehem Girls College, said all the pupils were rescued.

The church, in a statement by Archbishop Alfred Martins, said it was making provisions for all the pupils to be admitted in other schools so that their education would not be affected.

Martins stated, “Unfortunately, the Administrator of the school, Rev. Sr. Dr. Henrietta Alokha, SSH, and one female security guard died in the process of ensuring that the pupils were safe.

“Sr. Henrietta Alokha, SSH, and the other staff members, who died, paid the supreme price in their bid to lead all the pupils to safety. May their souls rest in peace. It is important to confirm that no priest died during the incident. The priest, who was celebrating the Mass, helped in rescuing the pupils and he is safe.

“Unfortunately, the staff quarters, the administrative building, the refectory and hostel buildings were levelled to the ground as a result of the impact of the explosion with no essential building standing except the convent housing the nuns in charge of the school.”

The Director of Education the archdiocese, Msgr. Jerome Oduntan, told us that although no pupil died in the incident, three were recuperating in hospital.

He said, “We have a population of 268 pupils, but because of the stampede, 50 of them sustained injuries and we took them to hospital, where they were treated.

“Most of the students are now at home with their parents, but we still have two undergoing treatment at the Naval Hospital and one at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja.

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