OpEd, Politics

Juba City is becoming a petrol station

From Highway A to Highway B, petrol stations are gradually replacing shops along the highways. That was last year. But this year, the word “gradual” is completely omitted and replaced by “rapid”. Petrol stations are rapidly replacing shops in Juba City.

The tragedy is that one petrol station could occupy a place for four or more shops, and I fail to understand whether or not these shops replaced by a petrol station are owned by one person or many people but agree to leash their land. This indicates that there will be more petrol stations than shops, and if there are more petrol stations and there happens to be a fire outbreak, it would be more disastrous than if petrol stations were few.

People say a ladder is fixed only on the day a child has fallen. The government of South Sudan will reduce the number of petrol stations after a fatal fire outbreak has occurred. Though a fatal fire outbreak occurs and a relative of the government officials has not succumbed to it, the government would still tolerate fixing more petrol stations. Unless one of the associates or a relative succumbs to it, that is when it will intervene.

It is not bad to fix petrol stations as they can ease jamming for fuel, but they should not be fixed closer to houses as is the case now. If an outbreak of fire erupts there, it would be disastrous. How the fire of petroleum burns is not like how the fire of grass burns. Fire of petroleum burns even the soil itself, let alone anything flammable it finds on its way. If it burns, the drums of petroleum fixed underground would burst like bombs, and this would involve even houses far off from the station.

Why would lives be jeopardized on broad daylight? If the government is too far to see this problem, then the Juba City Council as a mirror of the government should see it and come up with a formula to apply on the day an outbreak of fire erupts. If hopes are put on the Fire Brigade for fire extinguishment, then let me leak this news to you. “The time a fire outbreak occurs is the time when water finishes in a Fire Brigade extinguisher car”. This has happened several times.

I have witnessed it myself when a shop opposite Medan Zain, now being built as something else, at Gudele 2 caught fire. We tried to arrest fire, but it overwhelmed us. Someone called the Fire Brigade extinguishers to rescue us, and they actually came. After a few pours of water, they shocked us with the news that the water had finished. They returned as if going to come back with water, but they disappeared completely.

Whether their car broke down on the road or they realized the owner of the burning shop was their enemy, nobody knows it to date. What else could we do the shop was burning as if they had instructed it to burn beyond our control. Some of us instructed the neighbours to vacate their houses as fire could reach them easily while others sat down to help the shop owner in crying. The shop burnt to ashes in our presence. Assuming it were a petrol station, how would you expect survival there? The fire would have mocked the neighbours before they vacated and there more casualties would have been recorded.

The owner of the shop himself would have smelt it a rat. So, I’m of the opinion that if, indeed, the petrol stations are the only developments we have been longing for, then they should be distanced from the houses. If the problem is not with the government, but with the owners of the houses, then the fact that the government is for the people and has authority over people should make it come up with a life-saving solution.

The author is a medical student, University of Juba.

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