From Pwanagba Agabus, Jos
Tragedy struck in Jos, the Plateau State Capital on Friday July 24, Friday as no fewer than eight people died and over 100 others were left unconscious after inhaling chlorine from a cylinder that exploded at the treatment plant of the Plateau State Water Board.
Our correspondent gathered that the cylinder containing the gaseous substance exploded at about 11.30 pm on the day while residents were asleep and enveloped the entire neighbourhood.
Among the victims were a pregnant woman, a doctoral student, and second year student of Political Science of the University of Jos. They were all living just behind the treatment plant.
Those mostly affected were staff of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), whose
quarters were near the water board plant. Others were mostly medical
students of the University of Jos and the National Film Institute.
Those injured in the accident are currently receiving treatment at the Plateau State Specialist Hospital, Our Lady of Apostles Hospital, Bingham University Teaching Hospital and the Air Force Military Hospital, Jos. Also, the remains of those who died in the incident have been deposited at these hospitals.
Narrating her ordeal, a survivor, a 500-level Medical Laboratory student of UNIJOS,
Christiana Paul, who spoke from her hospital bed at the Plateau State Specialist Hospital, said when she perceived the odour, she thought it was a bleaching agent.
She said: “I knocked the doors of my friends and we all ran out towards the water board. But we discovered that the stench was coming from there because the further we ran, the stronger it became. Then, we ran back.
“The next thing I did was to soak one of my shirts in water and used it to cover my
nose, but the odour still permeated the soaked cloth and I was almost choking. As I kept on running, I lost much energy and passed out. Someone just came, picked me and brought me to the hospital. One of my friends could not make it as she passed out and died.
Another survivor, Mrs. Eke, who resides at the NIS quarters was too weak to speak as she was still on oxygen to stabilise her condition.
Other victims, a 58-year-old security guard, Enoh Magaji, his wife Mary, 44, and two children, Jacinta, 18 and Goodluck, are still battling for survival in the hospitals.
Public Relations Officer of Plateau State Water Board, Mr. Nangor Ndam, told The Dream Daily that the cylinder had been leaking, but nobody noticed it before the burst.
However, Governor Simon Lalong, said the state government will set up an independent committee to investigate the cause of the chlorine explosion.
Lalong disclosed this when he visited the scene of the incident. He said the state committee will be independent from that which President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered.
The governor said it was unfortunate that the incident occurred few weeks after the twin bomb blasts that had killed many people in the state.
Lalong who sympathized with the families of those who lost their lives and other victims that are receiving treatments, assured them that government will settle their hospital bills.
However, the governor expressed displeasure over the situation where people construct buildings on water pipes, saying: “It was wrong for people to build on pipes around the area.” This anomaly, he added, will be one of the terms of reference of the committee.
But Permanent Secretary, State Ministry of Water Resources, Mrs. Hannatu Dantong, assured residents that the water from the Water Board was still safe for consumption.
The Dream Daily gathered that the latest explosion marked the third time that expired dangerous gas would escape from cylinders stored at the warehouse of the board.