No fewer than eight persons have been confirmed dead and over 101 persons injured, as a result of chemical explosion at the Plateau State Water Board treatment plant in Jos, the state capital, in the early hours of yesterday.
The state governor, Simon Lalong, who confirmed the sad incident to newsmen in a statement signed by his director of press affairs, Nanle Emmanuel, said “there was an excess chlorine inhalation from an exploded chlorine cylinder by residents around the Lamingo Water Board Treatment Plant as a result of which about One hundred and one (101) people are receiving treatment at OLA Hospital, Evangel Hospital (Jankwano), Plateau Specialist Hospital and Air force Hospital, some of which have been treated and discharged.
The statement which was made available to LEADERSHIP Sunday reads in part, “8 people have been confirmed dead as a result of the inhalation of the contaminated air.”
The governor however said the contamination had been contained and does not affect the water which has been supplied to the public.
“The public water supply is safe for consumption and is not affected in anyway by the arial contamination of chlorine from the exploded cylinder,” the statement added.
While commiserating with the families of the victims of the industrial hazard, the state government said it had taken immediate measures to address the issues of expired components of the treatment plant and to guard against future reoccurrence of the unfortunate incident.
Also confirming the incident, the public relations officer of the state police command, DSP Emmanuel Abu, attributed it to chlorine explosion from a treatment plant at the state water board.
He said the treatment plant had been cordoned off while the management of the plant had also been advised to take necessary precautionary steps.
“Our anti bomb squad took control of the area and they evacuated the affected persons to the hospital. Sadly, five persons died in the hospital while others are receiving treatment,” he said.
Meanwhile, the deputy governor of the state, Prof Sonni Tyoden, yesterday promised that the state government would settle the medical bills of the victims.
Tyoden gave the assurance shortly after visiting some of the victims who are receiving treatment at the Plateau Specialist Hospital, before proceeding to the treatment plant.
The deputy governor who was in company with the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Peter Azi, chief of staff Govt House, John Dafaan, Permanent secretary, ministry of water resources, Hannatu Dantong and the state commissioner of Police Nasiru Oki, described the incident as unfortunate.
The deputy governor, who was visibly touched by the level of harm to lives, sympathised with those who lost their loved ones in the incident and urged Plateau citizens not to build residential houses near industrial areas to avoid future recurrence.
Survivor recounts ordeal
A survivor of the chemical explosion at the Plateau State Water Board treatment plant, Miss Franca Charles, in an interview with LEADERSHIP Sunday, said she was sleeping in the room with her roommate, Ifeoma, a 200 level political science student of the University of Jos when all of a sudden, “we could not breath properly as we started inhaling unpleasant air,” and at the same time, started hearing screams from our neighbours.
“We thought it was an attack from terrorists and so I opened the door to our room and started running. I ran towards British America Junction while my friend ran towards the water board area.
“I was able to survive the explosion but my friend Ifeoma did not survive. She died and her corpse has been deposited at the Plateau Hospital mortuary,” she narrated.
Meanwhile, Melvin Ejeh, the executive director of a non-governmental organisation, Global Peace and Life Rescue Initiative, who visited the scene of the disaster, said 14 persons were killed in the Industrial hazard.
Speaking to news men in Jos yesterday, Ejeh called on the state government to immediately investigate the immediate and remote cause of the chemical disaster. He commended the state government for promising to pay the medical bills of those hospitalised.