By Imani Odey
At least 10 persons have now been confirmed killed in a blaze that gutted a tank farm at the Calabar Free Zone Enterprise at Esuk Utan Community in Cross River State with others sustaining various degrees of burns.
The fire which affected a tank farm, part of the Nigeria Ports Authority and the Esuk Utan Community, was said to have been triggered by an overflow of PMS (petrol) from a vessel to a tank farm around the area.
Speaking to Channels Television, some witnesses claimed that most of the people who got burnt were scooping the petroleum product.
The bodies of those killed have been moved to the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital morgue while those injured are being treated.
Confirming the incident, the Commissioner for Petroleum Resources, Itaya Nyong, attributed the cause of the inferno to illegal activities going on within the Calabar Export Processing Zone.
He called on the Federal Government to investigate the issue and possibly shut down the affected tank farm for now to avert more spillage and a more severe disaster.
The Calabar Export Processing Zone comprises of several tank farms which serve petroleum products to several states in the country.
Witnesses and some survivors said the tragic incident occurred in the early hours of Sunday following an over flow of PMS product discharging from a vessel on a Marine jetty to a tank farm around the EPZ area.
Security agencies, however, prevented journalists from gaining access to the area affected by the blaze.
Also, residents of the area and business women from the community were not allowed to reach their friends and relatives who live at a fishing settlement behind the depot.
Witnesses at the entrance of the tank farm said the inferno which began from the river before reaching the tank farm lasted more than thirty minutes.
One of them, Nkpang Onobo, said the fire started around 2 am, after which it spread to the host community, Esuk Utan, and affected some people.
When journalists eventually got to the community, they were informed that six members were killed by the blaze.
The head of Esuk Utan, Edet Udukwon, said the community is considering legal action against the company that is involved.
In reaction, the Petroleum Commissioner decried the illegal activities said to be going on at the depot area with lack of security and safety measures which according to him is a primary factor to the disaster.
“The state Government will ensure that, justice is meted out to the culprits involved and adequate sanctions followed,” he said.