When residents of Akure, capital of Ondo State, went to bed on Friday night, they had no inkling of what laid in wait for them.
Like persons in other parts of the country where relative peace exists, they had hoped to wake up to a blissful Saturday despite the Coronavirus lockdown sweeping ferociously across the city and indeed most sections of Nigeria. Spirits were high.
But by the time the early morning dew ushered in Saturday, Akure and hundreds of its residents had bitter tales on their lips. A deadly explosion that ripped through large parts of the city around 1:00am had not only destroyed houses, schools, churches and left dozens of persons critically injured, the blast equally left scores of individuals and families without a roof over their heads anymore. It was the last thing the people ever wished for at this time.
Nigeria is currently locked in efforts to curb the spread of Coronavirus pandemic in the country and as part of the strategy adopted, markets have been closed, public gatherings banned and residents asked to remain in their houses to avoid being infected with the virus.
For residents of Oba Ile, Eleyowo and Osi communities – three of the most affected parts by the blast in Akure– life has indeed become darker. During a visit to the area on Saturday, residents including landlords of destroyed buildings told SaharaReporters that the tragedy had rendered them homeless and exposed them to the risk of contracting Coronavirus. All around the community, our correspondent saw people wearing long faces, crying and lamenting bitterly at the terrible calamity that had befallen them.
A woman, who identified herself only as Mummy Twins, told SaharaReporters that the explosion scared them to their marrows and sent them scampering to different corners for safety.
“I woke up at midnight to use the toilet when I heard the heavy sound of the blast,” she began, trying desperately to contain her emotions. “I was afraid and began to wonder what could have happened.
“By the time I got back to my sitting room, the explosion had destroyed the ceilings in the rooms including electronics.
“The explosion even shook the entire building and I had to quickly wake up my children so that we could stay alert to whatever was coming.
“The entire house was destroyed, we do not have anywhere to lay our heads as we speak. In this period of Coronavirus that government is asking everyone to stay indoors, we have been rendered homeless and exposed to the risk of contracting the virus. We need the entire world to help us,” she added.
Another resident of the affected area, Mrs Hanna, also lamented the destruction of their house by the explosion. Like Mummy Twins, she told SaharaReporters that they have nowhere else to call home.
#PressPlay VIDEO: Site of Akure Explosion
– Thirteen Persons Hospitalised after the deadly explosion hit Akure, Ondo State, on Saturday morning.
— Sahara Reporters (@SaharaReporters) March 28, 2020
“We don’t know who is willing to help us, I am a widow and don’t know what to do.
“The entire house have been destroyed as a result of the explosion and with the Coronavirus lockdown, we do not know where to go with our family,” she said.
A commercial motorcycle rider living close to the area of explosion, told SaharaReporters that he had never seen anything like Saturday’s tragedy in his life.
“Immediately I heard the blast, I was gripped with fear and could not do anything until my wife knocked me back into consciousness.
“In fact, I thought it was a bomb because the blast was so intense that by the time we managed to come out of our houses, we saw people running in different directions,” he said.
A pastor whose building is also not far from the scene of the explosion, told SaharaReporters that he saw a lot of people screaming and running for safety as the blast ripped through the area. According to him, many of them have been rendered homeless by the disaster.
A secondary school with boarding facilities – Aina Awawun International College – and a church, Possibility Prayer Mountain for All Nation, are among several buildings destroyed by the explosion, which also damaged major roads in Akure.
The situation has also left at least 13 persons badly injured and currently battling for life at the hospital.
According to findings by SaharaReporters, the explosion was triggered after a truck carrying explosive items to a quarry caught fire after experiencing technical failure. Driver of the truck took to his heels upon seeing the monumental damage the explosion had caused in the affected communities.
While visiting scene of the tragedy, Commissioner of Police in the state, Undie Adie, confirmed that the truck was carrying dynamites to a quarry when the incident happened.
“The driver of the truck was coming from Lagos and heading to Edo State but along the road, it developed some mechanical fault and it was immediately noticed.
“In fact from the explanation of the escort commander, they had to try to move it away from where there were houses.
“When they parked and came out and noticed there was smoke coming out from the engine, the driver’s effort to put it off was not possible and fire broke out,” he said.
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo during a visit to scene on Saturday described the explosion as an unfortunate incident. He said the police had been instructed to carry out a thorough investigation into the tragedy.
“We advise all residents not to come near the scene for now. We were told that the vehicle carrying the thing (explosives) is buried inside the ditch that was created as a result of the explosion and nobody knows the number of explosive items still left.
“I urge residents to allow the police do their work,” he said.
Saturday’s tragedy in Akure comes less two weeks after a similar explosion rocked the Abule-Ado area of Lagos, destroying over 50 buildings, dozens of vehicles and causing at least 20 deaths. Authorities are yet to discover the real cause of that incident.