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Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Eleven persons are feared missing and aquatic life completely destroyed when a 28-inch Liquefied Natural Gas underground pipeline exploded at Kalakama, an Ogoloma fishing community in Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The incident, which occurred at the weekend, resulted in a wild inferno which engulfed an estimated 27 square kilometers of the once rich Kalakama mangrove, killing sea foods and cash crops.
So huge, the impact of the explosion was felt on the Okrika Island and the Borikiri area of Port Harcourt where, residents were forced into a stampede for safety.
Problem started more than two months ago, when a minor gas leakage was noticed by inhabitants of the Kalakama fishing community, upon which a formal report was said to have been lodged with Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) by His Royal Majesty, Chief Nemi Tamunoiyalla-Oputibeya, Amanyanabo of Koniama.
The leakage assumed a frightening dimension, last week Monday, when a wild fire was first reported, before culminating in a major gas explosion.
It took NLNG fire fighters, using hi-tech helicopter services, more than 48 hours to put out the fire, but not before shutting down the NLNG gas plant at Rumuoji substation.
Rivers State Environment Commissioner, Dr. Roseline Konya, on a visit to the area, last Monday described the incident as a great disaster, and blamed it on bureaucratic delays by companies in treating life threatening complaints.
Leader of the Okrika delegation and chairman of the Okrika Divisional Council of Chiefs, Chief Taribo Sekibo-Oduobaji blamed the incident on negligence on the part of NLNG.
Chief Oduobaji, who was a Second Republic Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum and Gas Matters, said it was unimaginable that a report involving gas leakage could be allowed to snow-ball into such huge disaster.
The chiefs' delegation later visited the Kalakama community, which was half deserted.
Briefing the chiefs there, the community head, Elder Iyengiyikabo Kaizer Fienemika said able-bodied youths were still searching for 11 persons feared missing during the weekend stampede, while three elders were rushed to hospital, on Okrika Island after inhaling excessive gas.
Meanwhile, Chief Oduobaji has called on the Federal Government and relevant disaster agencies to come to the rescue of the primary victims now denied a source of livelihood.
Leader of the NLNG delegation during the inspection, Mr. Daniel Edewor confirmed the incident but declined to comment on the two month long reported gas leakage, saying, "our mandate is to assess the extent of the damage."