SIFAX Ijora Depot collapses, kills woman, injures 8 others

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A 40 year woman, identified as Ngozi Nwankwo, was on Thursday killed after some containers on a crane on the premises of SIFAX cargo terminal in the Ijora area fell on some buildings.

Also, eight other residents were also injured in the incident, which was said to have occurred at about 5.30 am.

Our correspondent gathered that the containers were being offloaded at the SIFAX Ijora Depot when they were blown away by the wind that preceded yesterday’s early morning downpour.

The corpse of the victim was said to have been deposited at the Lagos State Mainland Hospital mortuary as two of the injured persons were treated on the spot, while a woman, Opeyemi James, who was unconscious, was rushed to a hospital in the area.

It was learnt that the fence of the terminal, which belongs to SIFAX Group, borders 20 buildings, 10 of which were said to have been destroyed.

While residents of the area said the incident was caused by the wind that accompanied the downpour of Thursday, the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) said non-observance of safety procedures by the workers of the company was responsible for the occurrence.

An official of LASEMA told our correspondent that the containers were being moved to another spot within the terminal at about 5.30am, when they suddenly derailed from the crane and crashed into the buildings while the residents were asleep.

Rescue operations comprising the Police, Lagos Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Fire Service, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) and Lagos State Ambulance Service (LASAMBUS) have rescued those trapped underneath the containers.

It was gathered that the late Nwankwo popularly known as Ezinne in the neighbourhood came out at about 5:30am when one container fell on a nearby shanty but rushed back inside to dress up.

Her unclad body was recovered with her head shattered; she was holding her mobile phone.

The injured include Anderson Nwachukwu, 32; Jide James; Ayinu Ayoola; Babatunde Ayetomowo, Ife, Bukky and Aina.

It was gathered that an unidentified young man who was rushed to the hospital alongside three others, was vomiting blood when he was rescued.

A hairdresser who gave her name as Abimbola Ogbaro said she saw the first container fell and alerted others.

According to her, “It happened around 5:30am. I was outside washing clothes when I heard a very loud sound. Breeze was also blowing then. So, when I heard the sound, I looked towards the direction it came from and I discovered that a container was falling.

“I started shouting and calling my neighbours to run for their lives. I quickly abandoned the clothes, went into the house and carried my two children.

“Over 100 people stay in the eight structures that were affected. So, people started rushing out. Ezinne came out too that time but she was naked. She later went back inside, maybe to put on her clothe but another container fell on her and killed her there.

“About five big containers fell. One container fell on Babatunde’s back and injured his head and back seriously. The containers blocked everywhere. Those who were trapped were dragged out through small holes and whisked out from the back (Ijora under bridge side). My shop has been destroyed now. That is where I survive from and that is where we stay too.

“People were crying for help but owners of the containers did not come. They did not even act as if anything happened. It was one of our neighbours who called her sister who then called the government people before they came to our aid and removed the containers,” she said.

Another victim, Aminat Kolapo whose shop and three rooms were destroyed said she was lucky to have saved her three children.

The woman, who said she came out carrying her 18-month-old baby when she said a thunderous sound, told our correspondent that she immediately rushed back inside for her other two other children.

She said, “When I heard the sound, I carried my baby and came out to see what was happening. Then, I saw a fallen container and others coming down. The first thing that came to my mind was to run back into the house and carry my other children who were trapped.

“I quickly took them and ran away. They are all I was able to secure. I could not get anything out of my house. Not even a pin. Where will I get money to start all over again now? How will I get money to rebuild this place now that planks are very expensive? It will cost not less than half a million to rebuild what I have lost?

“I sell charcoal and also collect rent from my tenants. That’s how I have been surviving but now that this has happened, I do not know what to do.”

Nwachukwu, 32, said he escaped death by whiskers, adding, “I do not know how I managed to get out of the place. I was inside when the containers fell on the structures. I guess it was one of the containers that opened the door for me and I ran out.

“I am a trader at Lagos Island and I stay in Satellite Town. But because of the early morning traffic, I usually slept here, which is my brother’s shop for two days in a week. That way, am able to beat the traffic.

“As at the time the container fell, two women occupants were already outside. My brother was outside too and I was able to run out. I only had minor injury on my head. I just thank God that I am alive to tell the story.”

The residents called on the government to prevail on the depot owners to compensate the victims.

It was gathered that Obinna Udeze’s shop and three rooms were destroyed; Oyesanmi Ola lost a shop and a room; Blessing Ogbaro, a shop and Samson Enigbokan, two shops.

Bose Ishola lost four rooms, Shola Imani’s three rooms and a shop were destroyed and Ayetomowo lost eight rooms and a shop.

Primetime Reporters gathered that the Police Railway Command in Apapa invited the depot manager for questioning. Some of the victims have also made statements.

The Managing Director, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Mr. Michael Akindele, said the terminal was not lighted during the operation, adding that further investigation would be conducted into the incident.

According to him, “The agency received distress calls concerning containers that fell at Sifax Container Terminal at about 5.30am. Investigation conducted by the agency’s emergency response team at the scene of the incident revealed that the containers fell on adjoining illegal buildings due to operational errors during relocation of the containers within the premises overnight.

“Further assessment revealed that operational activities were carried out without floodlights and operational safety procedures. Two adult males sustained injuries and had been treated by the Lagos State Ambulance Service. Unfortunately one adult female was taken out and confirmed dead by the agency.”

The Police Public Relations Officer, SP Dolapo Badmos, said whoever was found complicit in the incident would be dealt with according to the law.

She said, “The containers fell on some houses along the railway line. Some people were trapped, while others were rescued and taken to a hospital. If anyone is found culpable, we will invite such for questioning.”

The Communication Manager, Sifax Group, Mr. Muyiwa Akande, said the incident was caused by storm, adding that the company was cooperating with the agencies investigating the case.

He said, “Early this morning (Thursday), there was a heavy rainfall accompanied by storm, which caused one of the empty containers to fall off its rack onto the shanties. Immediately the incident happened, the management invited the government agencies and they came to assess the situation. Our company places premium on safety to ensure that all our operational areas are safe. The incident was an act of God.

“We are already working with all the relevant agencies investigating the incident and we shall know the way forward after the investigation. It is premature to attribute what happened to operational errors.”

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