Abuja (Nigeria): More than 100 people have been killed following an explosion at an illegal oil refinery in Nigeria’s southern state of Imo, official and local sources said.
The explosion occurred late Friday at the illegal oil refinery in Egbema local government area, a boundary area between the southern states of Imo and Rivers, an official added on Saturday, confirming more than 100 killed so far, Xinhua news agency reported.
“There was a fire outbreak at an illegal bunkering site affecting over 100 people burned beyond recognition,” Goodluck Opiah, the Commissioner for Petroleum resources in Imo, told Xinhua.
Opiah said unidentified burned bodies littered the area, disclosing that the government had already declared wanted the operator of the illegal oil refinery, who is said to be currently absconding.
The explosion was suddenly heard in the forest between the states of Imo and Rivers, with thick smoke engulfing the entire area, according to Collins Ajie, a community leader and President-General of the Supreme Council of Oil and Gas Producing Areas in Imo.
“It is unfortunate; a tragedy no one dreamed of where about 108 burned bodies have been counted so far,” Ajie told Xinhua by telephone.
Such illegal oil refineries operate by tapping crude oil from pipelines owned by oil companies and distilled into products in improvised tanks.
Oil pipeline vandalism and oil theft are frequently reported in Nigeria, causing huge economic losses.