Nigerian police said at least 12 people were killed in an explosion on Friday near an illegal oil refinery site in the oil-rich Niger Delta region. The death toll is expected to rise as the fire raged for hours.
ABUJA, Nigeria — An explosion and fire near an illegal oil refinery site in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region killed at least 12 people on Friday, police said, although local residents reported a much higher death toll. pupil.
The explosion in the Emuoha council area of Rivers state in the south of the country occurred along a pipeline targeted by illegal refinery operators who were trying to steal oil, a said state police spokeswoman Grace Iringe-Koko.
“We are aware that there was an explosion related to bunkering activity,” she said, adding that authorities were working to determine the number of casualties and the cause of the incident.
Area residents told The Associated Press that dozens of people may have died in the blaze that raged for hours and that the victims were mostly young people who planned to siphon oil from a pipeline and transport it to an illegal refinery site in at least five vehicles.
Fyneface Dumnamene, executive director of the Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre, said a spark from the exhaust pipe of a bus loaded with gallons of crude oil triggered the explosion as the driver tried to drive off.
“Everyone in about five vehicles was burned,” Dumnamene told the AP.
Illegal refineries are a lucrative business in Nigeria, one of Africa’s top oil producers. They are most prevalent in the oil-rich region of the Niger Delta, where most of the country’s oil facilities are located.
Workers at these facilities rarely meet safety standards, leading to frequent fires, including one in Imo state last year in which more than 100 people were killed.
Nigeria lost at least $3 billion worth of crude oil to theft between January 2021 and February 2022. Shady commercial operators often evade regulators by setting up refineries in remote areas like Imo, the Nigerian said. Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC). year.