The Calabar Free Trade Zone (CFTZ) was razed by fire yesterday when an inferno from an explosion claimed 30 lives.
However, Police have said nine persons died in the incident, with others sustaining various degrees of burns.
They added that the cause of the explosion was yet unknown.
The CFTZ in Esuk Utan community is host to several tank farms belonging to different companies, but yesterday’s fire incident reportedly emanated from LINC Oil and Gas’ tank farm as a result of what was termed negligence and sabotage by some of its staff.
An eyewitness, Mr. Ikenga Uti, disclosed that a worker, who was trying to siphon petrol from a vessel opened one of the valves, but unfortunately the gasket on the valve failed. So the pressure threw him off, with fuel flowing into the gutter.
Remains of containers used for scooping by the victims near one of the gutters.
He said people started scooping it with various containers—drums, plastic and steel buckets.
According to Uti, “it was during the scooping of fuel from the gutter that the fire started and flowed back to LINC Oil and Gas and to Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, where it entered a vessel loaded with PMS.
“As I speak with you, we have brought out eight bodies from LINC Oil and Gas and about six people, who were scooping fuel outside the gate, also died.”
Wife of one of the victim being consoled.
Another eyewitness revealed that “the people scooping fuel said that the fire was ignited by somebody who was smoking cigarette close to one of the gutters that the product was flowing through, while some said it was a spark from one of the stainless steel buckets.
“For now, I can tell you that the Safety Manager and some security personnel from the company are dead.
This tragedy was caused because someone got greedy; the person, who opened that valve, caused this fire because they wanted to steal petrol.”
He added that the host community, Esuk Utan, was not spared as the fuel from the gutter flowed into the community.
He added, “due to the strong fumes of the petrol, some members of the community woke up to realise that petrol was flowing through their gutters and decided to scoop the product.”
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