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Pregnant Woman, 17 Others Die In Rivers’ Illegal Refinery Explosion



By Sola Omoniyi, Lagos

No fewer than 18 people, including a pregnant woman, have lost their lives following an explosion in an illegal oil refining site in the Ibas community in the Emuoha Local Government Area of Rivers State.

It was learned that the incident occurred late Sunday night when some people in the community were scooping petroleum products.

A resident in the community, who gave his name as Emmanuel, said the victims were selling the product at the refining site when the place suddenly went up in flames.

Emmanuel said, “More than 40 people were there at the site. They were there scooping crude oil when the place caught fire. The fire came from a refining site that was close to the point where they were scooping crude oil.

“Many Isiokpo and Oduoha people and Ibaa people were there. Seven of the people died inside the pit, where they were scooping the crude. About 10 were burnt to charcoal by the pit.

“About 30 people died at the site while over 15 have been rushed to the hospital. I hear that three of them have died while they were being rushed to the hospital.”

But the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps gave the casualty figure as 18.

The spokesperson of the NSCDC, Rivers State Command, Olufemi Ayodele, said in a statement that the deceased included a fresh graduate and a lady whose wedding was scheduled for next month.

Ayodele said 18 persons were roasted while 25 persons at the site were rescued by operatives.

He said preliminary investigations showed that the explosion was caused by a local refinery cooking pot constructed close to an oil reservoir that contained combustible materials.

He said the burning temperature eventually became too high and the environment gutted the fire.

“There is a need for conscious effort and stronger collaborations with the traditional institutions, community youths, and religious leaders amongst others to fight against oil bunkering activities in our various communities and this begins with giving credible intelligence and information to the NSCDC which remains the lead agency in the fight against vandalism of oil pipelines and protection of critical national assets and Infrastructures in Rivers State,” Ayodele said.