Scores killed in Nigeria oil fire

Red Cross says about 100 people have died in pipeline explosion in Lagos suburb.

    The fire spread through homes and a school [AFP]

    "The death toll as at this morning was 14. Yesterday, we recovered 10 bodies, including that of a two-year-old girl. But this morning our men recovered four more", Mohammed said.
     
    Olatunde Agoro, a local government official, said 15 had been killed. 
    "I don't think 100 is the correct figure. 100 is out of the question. This morning the figure was 15."
     
    Sule Mekudi, a Red Cross official, told AFP that about 100 people are thought to have died.
     

    Unconfirmed toll
      
    Mekudi told Al Jazeera that the flames from the fire spread through nearby homes and a school.

    He said: "At least 20 people have now been taken to hospital. The fire occurred in a residential area, and it is still continuing. The [surrounding] buildings are in flames."
     

    "When the Caterpillar driver came, the people here warned him there was a pipeline under the ground. He said he'd be careful, but the minute he started work this happened"

    Jimoh Hazan, resident of Ijegun

    Chinedu Eze, 19, was writing an exam in the Ijegun Comprehensive Junior High School when the explosion occurred.
     
    He told how local residents broke down the wall in front of the school to help pupils escape the fire.
      
    Earlier, local people threw sand and water at the flames in an effort to help firefighters extinguish the blaze.
      
    Firefighters concentrated their efforts on preventing the fire from reaching a petrol filling station, which was surrounded by a muddy pond of water.
     
    "When the Caterpillar driver came, the people here warned him there was a pipeline under the ground. He said he'd be careful, but the minute he started work this happened," Jimoh Hazan, a local resident, said.
      
    A journalist at the scene of the blast told AFP news agency that the area, which was near a primary school, was littered with shoes and bags belonging to pupils.

    Poor safety measures

    Sarah Simpson, another journalist speaking from Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta, said that very little has changed regarding the country's attempts to avoid disasters that can occur around oil pipelines.

    She said: "Investment and money has not been put into making these pipelines safer."

    Simpson also said that poor maintenance can also be attributed to the pipelines being targeted by criminal gangs.

    She added: "These gangs steal millions of dollars of oil from the pipelines.

    "However, some of the fires are triggered when local residents hear that they may be damaged, and gather to scoop up fuel."

    Pipeline fires are common in Nigeria. More than 400 people died in two pipeline explosions in Lagos in 2006, and at least 40 died in December last year.
     
    Some fires start when residents attempt to take oil from damaged or sabotaged pipelines.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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