ELUME RIVER FIRE DISASTER
SUBJECT: PPMC PIPELINE SPILL SPARKS FIRE
DISPATCHLINE: IBADA-ELUME, SAPELE LOCAL GOVERNMENT, OKOLOVWO,
OKPE LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREAS DELTA STATE
FROM: ISRAEL ALOJA
DATE: NOVEMBER 16, 2000
* Fire erupts from PPMC spill
* Several communities affected
* Farmlands, rivers and aquatic lives destroyed
* Ibada-Elume bridge collapses
* NEPA Transmission Lines burnt/cut
"At about midnight there was a wild fire on the river (Echion). I thought
the world was coming to an end. The entire community was thrown into
confusion. We lost our farmlands and major source of water. We are seriously
-- Patience Adija, (Orange seller from Elume)
Elume-Ibada is located along Sapele-Warri highway, in Sapele Local Government Area, of Delta State. The people were woken from sleep at about 2.00 A.M. by a loud bang from the Echion River on Wednesday, 8th November 2000. The noise alerted everyone in the community and everyone rushed to the direction of the river. The found the river on fire. The fire coursed along the waves and heated up the underside of the bridge across the river. The bridge eventually collapsed when a truck attempted to cross over it. The driver escaped with serious injuries. So many communities were affected in Sapele Local Governments Area. Amongst them are Elume, Ibada, Gbemudaka, Ituru etc.
THE SPILL AND THE FIRE
This was a fire waiting to happen. Four months ago a PPMC (owned by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, NNPC) pipeline ruptured and spilled refined petroleum products at Okolovwo community in Okpe Local Government Area of Delta State. The spill spread to nearby rivers/streams and farmlands. PPMC was alerted and they responded by mending the pipes without cleaning up the spill. The petroleum products continued to flow to several other communities in other local Government Areas and there was fire explosion at Echion River. As at the time ERA visited Okolovwo community the fire was still on. According to Prince Fred Ugbo, the financial Secretary of Elume Community and a retired Inspector of the Nigerian Immigration Service, "The ruptured pipeline passed through Okpe Local Government and not Sapele Local Government Area where the inferno occurred. The leakage has been on for over four months. PPMC was notified but they paid deaf ears. The cause of the fire has not been known. What we do know and what everyone can see is that aquatic lives farmlands, herbs and economic trees, vegetables, plantain, oranges and etc. have been totally destroyed. Our means of livelihood is lost. We are mainly fishermen and farmers. All hope is gone."
THE DESTRUCTION AND THE LOSS
Until the time of this report, large volumes of diesel could still be seen on the affected rivers and streams. The implication is that there is likely to be another fire out-break. The destroyed bridge is yet to receive any attention. The charred remains of the truck remains as a totem to the tragedy. The traffic situation is chaotic as motorists now use the unfinished section of the Warri-Sapele highway here. The high-tension electricity transmission lines cut by the fire still lie across the road. Some parts of the Edo and Delta states remain in total black out as a result of this incident. The Chairman of NEPA Technical board has estimated that about N20m will be needed to reconstruct and replace the NEPA components destroyed by the fire. Nothing is heard about how much will be invested to clean up the spill, restore the environment and rehabilitate the people.
* NNPC should be ordered to stop the fire completely
* NNPC should do a proper clean up of the entire environment.
* The reconstruction of the Ibida-Elume bridge should be treated as an emergency need
* NNPC should pay adequate compensations to all the affected communities
* Oil companies should be more concerned about their host communities
* Federal and State Government should wake up to their environmental protection responsibilities.
* Relief materials should be supplied to the affected communities who have lost their means of livelihood and source of drinking water.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
* Write protest letters to NNPC demanding that they rehabilitate
the affected communities with immediate effect. Insist that they should
do a proper clean up of the entire environment
* Send copies of your letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
* Send copies of your letter to the Legislator(s) from your constituting (Nigerians) requesting them to raise issues of environmental concern as a critical part of their mandate and obligation to the people.
* Send copies to local and international environmental groups genuinely concerned about environmental protection to mount campaigns towards realising Article 24 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights (AFCHPR).
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