No fewer than 60 persons are feared dead in Calabar, Cross River State as a petrol tanker that fell and from which they were scooping fuel exploded on Friday.
The Police Command in the state and some eyewitnesses said the victims were warned and initially prevented from scooping the fuel but they insisted on engaging in the act.
According to available information, the fully loaded petrol tanker fell along Odukpani Local Government Area axis of the Ikom-Calabar Expressway, near Federal Housing Estate, Calabar.
The victims were said to have taken advantage of the incident to scoop fuel from the tanker.
An eyewitness, Slyvester Ilem, told newsmen: “I saw people running to the scene with gallons and other containers to scoop fuel after the tanker veered off the road into a ditch by the roadside.
“Police officers from Odukpani Division also tried to cordon-off the area but the people refused and continued to scoop fuel.
“The rest is now history as the tanker burst into flames and engulfed all the people near and within the radius that the product had spread to.
“Let me be modest, the people scooping that fuel will not be less than 60 to 70 people because it was like a market place.”
The spokesperson of the Cross River State Police Command, Irene Ugbo, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, confirmed the development.
Ugbo said the police had earlier warned the victims. She said: “Our men from Odukpani Division went there to cordon-off the area but the people refused and continued scooping fuel and before we knew it, the place was already in flames.
“As we speak, we cannot confirm the number of deceased persons because the fire is still heavy.
“It is only when the fire subsides that we can account for the victims and give analysis of what happened there.”
Ugbo condoled with the families who lost their loved ones in the tragedy.