At least three persons were feared dead while several others were injured after an oil tanker caught fire in the Kara-Ibafo, Ogun State end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
Reports said that the explosion occurred around 10pm on Tuesday.
It was gathered that the explosion, which spread to another tanker and three other vehicles, caused a serious gridlock on both lanes of the expressway.
While some motorists passed the night in the traffic, others spent several hours before they could navigate through the scene of the crash.
Many residents returning from their workplaces had to walk miles to reach their destinations as the standstill persisted till 1pm on Wednesday when the wreckage was removed by emergency officials.
The emergency officials comprised those of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Ogun State Traffic Compliance and Enforcement Corps, the Ogun State Fire Service, the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigerian Army.
Vehicular movement along the axis was at snail pace as of 7pm on Wednesday as the gridlock had stretched to the Ojodu Berger area of Lagos State and the Mowe area of Ogun State.
Reports said that the fuel-laden tanker, which was heading for Ibadan, Oyo State, had fallen around 9pm on Tuesday, after crashing into a concrete used to demarcate the road as a result of the ongoing construction work on the expressway.
As the tanker spilled its content, some residents in the area reportedly besieged it to scoop fuel.
A policeman, who witnessed the incident and spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said the driver of a commercial bus wanted to negotiate its way through the ensuing gridlock when the bus silencer sparked a fire.
The fire spread to the spilled fuel, resulting in a conflagration.
He said, “Immediately the tanker fell around 9pm, some residents moved there, opened its cover and started scooping the fuel. They were about 25. I warned them to steer clear, but they refused. At a point, I had to chase some of them with a stick.
“One of them was on top of the tanker when it exploded around 10pm. The bus that caused the fire, two cars and another tanker with fuel were burnt. Two of those scooping fuel died and many others were injured.”
Another eyewitness, Ismail Yusuf, said one Andrew, who was travelling in a bus to Delta State, jumped down on sighting the fire.
“He was seriously injured and some people and I rushed him to a hospital, where he died. A doctor told us his spinal cord had broken and he had abdominal injuries. His corpse is in the mortuary. Seven among those siphoning the fuel were burnt,” Yusuf added.
Some of the burnt victims visited by our correspondent included, Idris Musa, Abdullahi Umar, Issa Yahaya, Salah Muhammed and Saidu Uthman. They could not speak with our correspondent due to their conditions.
An executive member, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Muhammed Khalifa, said the victims were rejected from a private hospital in the area because they could not afford to pay deposits.
Some commuters and travellers who were trapped in the gridlock, said they regretted setting for their journeys.
One of them, Dele Afolayan, a businessman, said, “I left Ibadan (Oyo State) around 4am because of an important appointment I have in Lagos. I was supposed to meet with my customers at 8am in Ijora, Lagos. Obviously, the whole arrangement is futile now. I am frustrated.”
Another traveller, Mrs. Esther Theophilus, said she was exhausted having spent four hours in the traffic, adding that she had tried in vain to lull her 11-month-old baby to sleep.
She said, “I was coming from Ilorin (Kwara State). Our bus got to Mowe around 9am when we got stuck in the traffic. We spent four hours from Mowe to this point (Ibafo). I am very tired and so is my child. He has been crying all day.”
Many residents, who live in Mowe, but work in Lagos State, were forced to remain at home. Some commuters boarded motorcycles while others resorted to trekking.
There was also a hike in transport fare as commercial drivers charged between N300 and N400 for routes that cost N100.
The FRSC Commander, Mowe Unit, Assistant Corps Commander Oludare Ogunjobi, said emergency agencies responded to the crash swiftly.
He said, “We have not been able to ascertain the number of casualties. It is when we know that we can say whether people died or were injured. We will visit some hospitals around here after the operation. We don’t know the cause of the crash and I don’t want to pre-empt the cause. Investigation will be conducted to ascertain the cause.
“We have been able to remove the major obstruction. Our concern now is traffic control and we have contacted OP MESSA to give us security backup to ensure traffic flow.”
The TRACE Corps Commander, Mr. Seni Ogunyemi, blamed the crash on impatience and illegal diversions on the expressway, calling for a quick completion of the ongoing construction work on the road.
He said, “There are 184 illegal openings on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway within Ogun State boundary. Out of that number, only 13 openings are legal for motorists to ply a single lane.
“We have contacted Julius Berger that is working on the road to close the illegal openings. The tanker crashed into one of the illegal openings.
“According to eyewitnesses, the driver did not see the concrete on time. We have closed it up. We have not got any official report on whether there were casualties or not.
“Most drivers are impatient even when they are on a single lane. This is what causes most of the crashes. We urge the contractors to speed up work on the construction and ensure it is completed on time to ease the traffic.”