15 dead in Nigerian road crash

2010-08-16 12:37

Lagos - A fiery road crash outside Nigeria's commercial capital of Lagos burnt at least 15 people to death and injured 18 others, a senior state official said on Monday.

"We have 15 burnt bodies and 18 injured people. Around 20 vehicles were involved, but only 10 were burnt. The others had some dents," Lagos special adviser on transportation Kayode Opeifa said.

He said the accident on the Lagos-Ibadan express road on Sunday was caused by a truck carrying sugar following a brake failure.

He could not confirm local media reports that the truck was being pulled over by a police checkpoint, which are often mounted by officers seeking to collect bribes. Police also could not confirm the reports.

Opeifa said there was an inferno after the other vehicles rammed into the truck, consuming 10 other vehicles and the victims in the process.

Mini-buses used for public transport capable of carrying around 20 passengers were also involved in the accident, though it was unclear how many.

Local media said between 20 and 40 people died in the crash, but Opeifa said the figure was exaggerated and that a number of people managed to escape the carnage.

"There were many lucky people who survived by jumping out of their vehicles to safety," he said, but added that the death toll could rise because of the extent of injuries.

Huge traffic jams

"Some of those in the hospitals had severe burns and they may succumb to their injuries," he said.

Accidents are common on Nigeria's poorly-maintained road networks.

Highways in and around Lagos, which rivals Cairo as Africa's biggest city with a population of some 15 million, are especially chaotic.

Huge traffic jams result in hours-long journeys and large numbers of vendors walk between vehicles to sell everything from CDs to kitchen supplies.

The road where the accident occurred is often busy on Sundays due to a large number of evangelical mega-churches in the area.

More than 17 000 people died in about 31 000 road accidents across Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, between 2007 and 2009, according to the state-run road safety agency.

The agency said more than 73 000 were injured in these accidents during the period.