A gas explosion occurred on Saturday night at a gas shop near the National Arts Theatre in Iganmu, Surulere, Lagos State, causing damage to some sections of the iconic cultural landmark.
According to the Lagos State Fire and Rescue Service, the fire was caused by an exploded gas cylinder and was brought under control within an hour. “We were able to rescue 10 people alive and they have been treated and discharged on the spot,” said Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, the director-general of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency.
The explosion also claimed the lives of five people, including a 10-year-old boy and a woman who was frying food nearby. One of the victims was a motorcyclist who was passing by the scene when the fire erupted. The fire destroyed three shops, six shanties and about 12 vehicles.
The cause of the explosion is not yet known, but authorities suspect that one of the gas cylinders exploded as a result of a fire close to the gas shop and work being done on one of the cylinders. “Out of the four bodies (one was) a woman who was said to be frying (food items) while Sodiq (another of the victims) was operating on a cylinder,” said Ibrahim Farinloye of the National Emergency Management Agency.
The location of the gas shop within a residential area and along a power line has been criticised by the Lagos State Fire Service, which said that the shop was once closed by the state government because of its unsafe location. The Lagos State Safety Commission has been conducting a safety audit of gas outlets in the state and has closed 15 of them for not complying with safety standards.
A committee has been formed to investigate the incident and look at “what led to this,” Oke-Osanyintolu said. The National Arts Theatre, which was built in 1976 and hosted the Festival of Arts and Culture in 1977, is a symbol of Nigeria’s cultural heritage and has been undergoing renovation since last year.