Dozens feared dead after tanker explodes while people collect fuel

Saturday 12th January 2019 11:00 GMT

The blast happened as locals scooped up fuel from the leaking tanker, which had veered off the road before overturning.

A police spokeswoman initially said 12 people are known to have died, and 22 others have been taken to hospital with "serious burns".

She later said the casualty numbers were "high" and the exact number was not known.

However, nearby residents fear as many as 60 people could have been killed in Friday evening's explosion, which happened in Cross River State.

Richard Johnson, who witnessed the explosion, said people were burnt to ashes - telling the AP news agency that the police had only recovered a few of the bodies.

He said: "It is not likely that anyone inside the pit survived as there was a lot of fuel in the pit."

Mr Johnson suggested that the blast could have been caused by an electricity generator brought to the scene to help pump out the fuel for people's containers.

Another witness said: "I counted 18 bodies including women and children burnt beyond recognition.

"I believe the casualty level could be more because people from other neighbouring communities had thronged the scene."

Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer - and impoverished people risking their lives to collect fuel leaking from pipelines and trucks is common.

Hundreds of people have died in similar accidents over recent years.

About a year ago, more than 30 people were burnt to death in the same area while scooping fuel from an oil tanker involved in an accident.

Nigeria's worst accident occurred in 1998, when more than 1,000 people died scooping fuel from a leaking oil pipeline that exploded in the town of Jesse.

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