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Fears spread as gas explosion rocks Rivers community

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The Rivers State Government and the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency have said they will investigate the gas pipeline explosion, which shattered the serenity of Oduoha and Elibrada communities in the Emohua Local Government Area of the state on Wednesday.

Sources told our correspondent that the rupture occurred around 3am, resulting in a leakage, which caused tremor, though there were conflicting claims by residents as to whether the incident took place in Oduoha or Elibrada.

The state Commissioner for Energy and Natural Resources, Dr Peter Medee, said officials of the ministry had been assigned to visit the location as the government would not rely on third party information.

“I have passed on the information to the Head of Department of Petroleum and Gas. So, they will go there tomorrow (Thursday) to get all the facts, because we cannot rely on any information that is given to us by a third party. They will go there and then feed me back before we can go to the press,” the commissioner stated.

Similarly, the Port Harcourt zonal Director of NOSDRA, Ime Ekanem, said the agency was aware of the leakage, adding that efforts were on to avert a possible fire outbreak though he did not say if any preventive measure had been put in place.

“We are aware of the gas leakage at Emuoha and the agency is going to respond. Our investigation is tomorrow (Thursday). By the time we visit the scene and come back, we will be able to give details of what really happened,” Ekanem stated.

Confirming the incident, the Chairman of the Emuoha Local Government Area, Tom Aliezi, said Oveku and Oduoha communities were affected but no life was lost to the incident.

Aliezi stated, “Around 3am, I received a call from Eduoha because of the incident. When I asked what happened, I was told that one of the pipelines ruptured. I immediately contacted the security agencies. I called the LNG zonal controller in Emuoha Local Government Area, but he didn’t take his call.

“Then I spoke to the Controller of Pipelines and he said he was going to immediately make his management know about it. When he called me back, he said they moved in at once and that what they had been able to do was to stop the flow.

“I was there myself, so I said: ‘I am standing there, none of your people are here. So, whatever you are going to do, please do’. So that has been the situation. They said they came. I didn’t see them. We are still on them. As I speak, I am in Emuoha.”

Aliezi added that he had reached out to the operators of the oil and gas facility for them to take charge of the situation and advised residents of the area to steer clear of the scene.

He stated, “I have advised my people to steer clear. So far, there is no casualty and from the information reaching me, I think it is an eroded pipeline, but that is subject to investigation.

“For now, everybody should steer clear of that place until we are sure that the experts are there to advise on what to do.”

Earlier, residents of Elibrada and Uduoha had raised the alarm of a possible fire outbreak as the deafening sound of gas leakage could be heard miles away, while the escaping gas could be seen from the facility located in the middle of the forest.

An eyewitness and indigene of Emuoha, Chizi Enyi, said the area was experiencing tremor due to the burst pipeline.

He said, “It is a gas pipeline rupture, but it is without fire and it has been making noise since 2am. I visited the site and the noise is too loud.

“However, we got information that the NLNG and Agip (companies believed to be the operators) people are mobilising to the place.

Let me also thank the local government chairman for his quick response in trying to make all the necessary contacts to ensure that the leakage is stopped. So, we are still waiting for the companies to see how they can stop the leakage.”

Another indigene of the Emuoha said the whole area and nearby communities were enveloped by the odour of gas.

“We have been calling on the fire service but they have not been responding to calls. We are living in fear. For now, we have not heard of any casualty, but we are afraid there could be fire anytime,” the indigene stated.

It was gathered that the facility was being jointly operated by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Company and the Nigeria Agip Oil Company.

As a result of the development, it was gathered that some of the residents had fled the area.

Speaking on the development, the Paramount Ruler of Oduoha, Chief Ferdinand Ogbuehi, said the leakage caused panic in the community, adding that many residents had already fled.

He stated, “From 4am till now, the people have been living in fear. The vibration has sent many packing. We are not at rest at all. We had not seen this type of thing before. We want the government to come and see what is happening.

“We have announced to the people that nobody should go to the scene. We don’t want a fire outbreak from that place to destroy our community. We want the government to come. We are afraid of going closer to the place.”

Also speaking, acting Paramount Ruler of the Elibrada community, Abel Obillor, called on relevant government agencies to intervene and protect the area from any harm that the leakage could cause.

He said, “Around 3.55am, we heard a sound. Everyone in my community ran to the junction. The sound can still be heard from that particular place. I called on my people to stay away from the place and until the government comes to our rescue.

“We don’t know how this thing came about. We need the government to come and help us and see what is happening here. Our crops and everything will be affected; so, we need help.”

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