Police on alert in blast-hit Lagos

  • AseanPlus News
  • Tuesday, 04 Feb 2003

LAGOS: Rescuers toiled through the night as police with machineguns stood guard after three apartment blocks were flattened and at least 30 people killed by a mystery explosion in the crowded commercial heart of Lagos. 

The front of the Prudent Bank next to the block where Sunday's blast occurred was ripped off and looters ransacked the building. Nigeria's Red Cross chief said the bank's strongroom was cleaned out. 

Smoke rose from behind the rubble as firefighters worked under the glare of a fire engine's headlights to extinguish flames still rising from the ruins. 

A policemen loosed off a burst from a machinegun to keep crowds away and prevent further looting. 

But local residents went ahead with a baptism party just around the corner from the blast scene on Sunday evening despite the grim death toll. 

“As I'm speaking to you now, there are over 30 bodies in the mortuary and there could still be many more dead in the debris,” Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu told journalists at the scene on Sunday. 

Lagos State Commissioner of Information Dele Alake said some people might still; be found alive the wreckage. 

Red Cross chief Emmanuel Ijewere put the death toll at 22 and said 41 people were being treated in hospital. Six were in critical condition. 

He said the blast, which echoed across the city of 12 million people around 11 am, came from a three-storey building with a mixture of shops and residential flats next to the bank. Two other blocks were flattened. 

In Nigeria's southern oil-producing city of Warri, several buildings were burned and gunshots rang out on Sunday in a third consecutive day of ethnic clashes, witnesses said. 

Street clashes first broke out on Friday in Warri between the Itsekiri and Urhobo ethnic groups, leaving several people dead. Calm had returned by Sunday morning, until the new bout of violence broke out. 

The Lagos explosion was Nigeria's worst disaster since a fire gutted one of the main offices of the national oil firm in December. In January last year, more than 1,000 people died from a fire at a Lagos arms depot. 

Oil-rich Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, suffers bouts of inter-ethnic violence but is not known as a target of terror attacks. 

Worries of mounting violence ahead of presidential elections have been heightened by the ethnic clashes in Warri. – Reuters  

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