A major gas fire disaster was averted in Enugu State at the weekend but the State Fire Service successfully put out the gas flare that erupted during a borehole drilling at the Federal Housing Estate in Ugwogo Nike, Enugu.
This was even as the State government warned against drilling of boreholes without the authorisation of the State’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and other relevant government agencies.
Prof. Sam Ugwu, the Commissioner for Environment and Climate Change, stated this during an inspection tour of the incident at Nike on Sunday.
The gas flare occurred at about 10:30 p.m. on Saturday and lasted till the early hours of Sunday, resulting in the rig operators and some residents scampering for safety.
During the site inspection, Ugwu, who was also accompanied by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Energy and Mineral Resources, Mr. Kingsley Nnaji, thanked the firemen, led by the Chief Fire Officer, Okwudiri Ohaa, for their prompt intervention.
According to Ugwu, the state had last year, experienced same gas flaring around the Caritas University, making it the second incident.
“The government is going to investigate the incident further because already, we have environmental laws. They were supposed to have applied to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.
“The ministry would come here to do an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and then there would be a letter of commencement, which would be issued by the ministry.
“So, I advise anybody going into the ground to do the proper thing to avoid this kind of experience we now have here. But for the prompt intervention of the State Fire Service, this could have caused loss of lives and houses around this place.
“But these gas eruptions have also further confirmed Gov. Peter Mbah’s statement that we have both solid and liquid mineral resources in abundance in Enugu State.”
The governor had said his administration was very much interested in harnessing them for the good of the people of Enugu and the nation in general.
Ugwu added that Enugu coul not be known as Coal City alone because it had gas, limestone, kaolin, gypsum, and other mineral resources in abundance.
“That is why the present government is very much interested in bringing local and foreign investors to come and invest in these mineral deposits,” Ugwu stated.
Narrating the incident, Ohaa said the experience garnered by the Fire Service during such accidental gas eruption around Caritas University, Nike, helped them in applying the right measure to stop the flare.
“What readily came to mind was the incident at Caritas University last year, around 24th May to be precise. That Caritas University incident took us roughly three weeks to quench because we never had such an experience before that.
“But with the support of the government that has continued to finance us for emergencies like this, we were able to put off this one in less than eight hours.
“It shows that the Enugu State Government is not joking about making the state the first choice for investment, ” he said.
He warned residents of the area to respect the cordon by the servicemen and also avoid coming close to the site with fire of any kind.
He, however, assured that his men would be on ground until the flow totally stopped.
A resident of the estate, Mr Boniface Ogbueje, told newsmen that the incident caused pandemonium, but commended the State Fire Service for saving the situation.
“We thought the rig or the vehicle had gas leakage and caught fire. Eventually it was not the case. The fire continued to increase and increase.
“People were running helter-skelter, but the firemen came quickly and were able to bring the fire under control after several hours. God really helped us, ” he said.
Meanwhile, a staff member of the drilling firm, Orange Drilling Company, Kamarudeen Ado, said they were taken unawares as they least expected the presence of natural gas in the water pumping up.
He, however, confirmed that there were no loss of lives and property, while those injured were receiving treatment in an undisclosed hospital.