December 2, 2022

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An explosion at an illegal Nigerian oil refinery killed more than 100 people

An explosion at an illegal Nigerian oil refinery killed more than 100 people
  • The refueling site was on the border of Rivers and Imo states
  • Illegal refining in the Niger Delta is fueled by poverty
  • The explosion follows a recent crackdown by the governor of Rivers State

YENGAO, Nigeria (Reuters) – Charred bodies were left strewn among palm trees, cars and pickup trucks on Sunday after an explosion at the weekend killed more than 100 people at an illegal oil refinery on the border of Nigeria’s Rivers and Imo states.

Slippers, bags and clothes of those who died were strewn on the ground, blackened by oil and soot while still smoky in places despite it raining all night.

“There are a lot of people who have died here. I am appealing to the government to look into this,” O’Shea Wook, a commercial bike driver, told Reuters at the site of the blast on Saturday night.

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The Nigerian Red Cross Society was at the scene on Sunday to assess the blast that devastated part of the Abayzi forest, which borders the Ohaji-Igbima Local Government Area of ​​Imo State with Rivers State.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement that he would intensify the crackdown on illegal refineries after what he described as a “disaster” and a “national disaster”.

Unemployment and poverty in the oil-producing Niger Delta made illegal refining attractive, but with often fatal consequences. Crude oil is extracted from a network of pipelines owned by major oil companies and is refined into temporary tanks.

This operation led to fatal accidents and contamination of an area already hit by oil spills in farmlands, streams and lakes.

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A man stands at the site of the explosion that killed more than 100 people, at an illegal crude fuel refueling site in the Abayzi Forest, in Ohaji Igbima Local Government Area, Imo State, Nigeria, April 24, 2022. REUTERS/Teff Olabi

The Center for Youth and Environmental Advocacy said several vehicles in line to buy illegal fuel were burnt.

“The fire broke out at an illegal catering site and affected more than 100 people,” State Commissioner for Petroleum Resources Goodluck Obia said of the incident.

The frontier site is a reaction to Rivers’ recent crackdown on illegal refining in an effort to curb worsening air pollution. Read more

“In the past month or two, there have been several raids and some of the security elements involved have been dealt with,” said Ledum Mete, the former head of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP).

At least 25 people, including some children, were killed in an explosion and fire at another illegal refinery in Rivers State in October. Read more

In February, local authorities said they had begun a crackdown on refining the stolen crude, but apparently with little success. Read more

Government officials estimate that Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer and exporter, is losing an average of 200,000 barrels of oil per day, more than 10% of production, due to illegal pipeline tapping or sabotage.

This has forced oil companies to regularly announce force majeure on oil and gas exports.

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Additional reporting by Felix Onwah in Abuja and Julia Payne in Lagos Writing by Julia Payne and MacDonald Dzerotoy Editing by Raisa Kasulowsky, Russell and Alexander Smith

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.