In a harrowing incident that unfolded in the Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State, a community found itself grappling with the aftermath of an oil spillage that escalated into a catastrophic explosion. The calamity, which transpired at the Okari Jetty, not only claimed lives but also inflicted irreparable damage on the aquatic ecosystem.
Eyewitnesses who were present during the disaster shared chilling accounts of the events that transpired. According to reports, the explosion was triggered by the mishandling of a hose used for off-loading Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) at a Port Harcourt refining company depot. The negligence of workers led to a spillage on July 31, a fateful incident that culminated in the subsequent tragic explosion on Monday.
The impact of the explosion was devastating, leaving in its wake the loss of two fishermen’s lives. These fishermen had embarked on their routine fishing expedition, unknowingly carrying lanterns that set off the firestorm. The explosion was accompanied by a deafening roar and a blanket of flames that engulfed everything in its path, including the ill-fated boat that the fishermen had relied on.
In the aftermath of this horrific incident, residents were confronted with an unusual phenomenon: dead fish floating on water bodies. The oil spill had contaminated the rivers, resulting in a grim spectacle of aquatic life succumbing to the toxic aftermath. Despite the calamity, reports emerged of some residents seizing the opportunity to catch large quantities of fish from the polluted waters. Shockingly, they proceeded to dry and sell these contaminated fish, unwittingly adding a new layer of complexity to the already dire situation.
Initially, reports suggested a higher death toll of 16 individuals, but the Chairman of Okrika LGA, Akuro Tobin, later clarified that only four people had lost their lives in the catastrophe. However, the true scope of the disaster extended beyond human casualties. Environmental rights advocate Fyneface Dumnamene raised concerns about the ecological ramifications of the incident. He emphasized the urgency of conducting an investigation to understand the extent of the damage caused by the spillage and subsequent explosion.
Dumnamene, who serves as the Executive Director of the Youths and Environmental Advocate Centre, stressed the need for responsible parties, including the refining company, to take accountability. Urgent measures, including environmental cleanup, were deemed crucial to mitigate further damage and prevent similar incidents in the future. As the community grapples with the aftermath of this tragedy, the focus remains on addressing the loss of life, the environmental toll, and seeking justice for those affected by the avoidable disaster.