Police and Nigerian officials say more than 50 people have been killed and many injured in an explosion that rocked an illegal oil refinery in southeastern Nigeria.
The death toll may be more than 100, according to a report by the Lagos-based Punch newspaper. The fire was reported to have spread to nearby properties.
The fire broke out Friday night and quickly spread to two fuel storage areas at the illegal crude oil refinery, causing the complex to be “engulfed by a rapidly spreading fire” within the area, Declan said. Emelumba, Imo State Information Commissioner.
The immediate cause of the explosion and the extent of deaths, injuries and damage are being investigated, Emelumba said.
Multiple videos posted on social media showed a gruesome scene, with the charred remains of people reduced to skeletons and ashes. The Associated Press was unable to independently verify them.
“A lot of people died. The people who died are all illegal operators,” said Michael Abattam, a spokesman for the Imo State Police Command.
The Imo state government was searching for the owner of the refinery where the explosion occurred and declared him wanted, an official said.
Illegal refineries are common in Nigeria, where shady business operators often dodge regulations and taxes by setting up refineries in remote areas, out of sight of authorities.
Nigeria is Africa’s largest producer of crude oil, but it has very few official refineries and as a result most of its gasoline and other fuels are imported, creating an opportunity for illegal refinery operators.
The practice is so widespread that it is affecting crude production in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.