Officials said petrol had been oozing out of the pipeline for two weeks prior to the incident after thieves deliberately broke into it to steal fuel. A spark from a motorcycle set off an explosion, which engulfed in flames all those gathered at the site. "Over 100 people were killed and dozens more injured are in hospital with various degrees of burns," Emmanuel Ijewere, president of the Nigerian Red Cross said in a statement.
He said the Red Cross was sending medical supplies to hospitals in Umuahia, the Abia State capital, where most of the injured were admitted for treatment. Hospital sources said the death toll was likely to rise because many victims of the blast had very severe burns.
The state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), which operates the pipeline, said the fire had been brought under control and the leak had been stopped. However NNPC officials declined to comment on claims by local people that the oil company had been informed of the leak several days before the explosion, but had failed to action to stop it.
Oil pipeline fires accidentally started by fuel thieves have killed hundreds of villagers in the past four years in Nigeria. Most of those killed in Thursday's inferno were villagers scavenging for fuel from the punctured pipeline.
Most Popular Articles