About 100 people have been killed when a gasoline tanker crashed on the east-west road in Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta and caught fire, our correspondent has said.
“At least 100 people have been killed and at least 18 people were injured and taken to hospital,” Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow said on Thursday.
Our correspondent reporting from the capital, Abuja,said the death toll from the accident was expected to rise.
Hundreds of people crowded around as soldiers and emergency workers lifted bodies into ambulances and police trucks.
The fuel tanker was a pile of smouldering ash, twisted metal and melting tyres.
“Early this morning a tanker loaded with petrol fell in Okogbe and people trooped to the scene obviously to scoop the spilled fuel and suddenly there was fire resulting in casualties“
– Ben Ugwuegbulam, Police spokesman
The fuel tanker was trying to avoid a head-on collision with buses when it swerved into a ditch at about 7:00am local time on Thursday, said Rivers State police spokesman Ben Ugwuegbulam. It then overturned in the bushes, leaving its fuel to spill.
“Early this morning a tanker loaded with petrol fell in Okogbe and people trooped to the scene obviously to scoop the spilled fuel and suddenly there was fire resulting in casualties,” Ben Ugwuegbulam, Rivers State police spokesman, said on Thursday.
Adedoyin Adeyinka, head of the Road and Federal Safety, told Al Jazeera that the accident prompted people to siphon fuel.
“And before we got here, the tanker behind me fell down and people came out to scoop fuel and I want to use this medium to appeal to Nigerians that nothing is free and it is dangerous for people to come close to this type of accident or to move closer to vehicle,” he said.
Some troops who reached the crash site before the fire broke out told people to clear off, but many ignored the warning, an official from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said.
Forces from the military’s Joint Task Force “got to the scene before us. They warned people to leave the scene to avoid disaster. But many of them were busy scooping fuel. They disobeyed,” Emenike Umesi from NEMA explained.
Some of those taken to the hospital were burned beyond recognition, while others appeared treatable, said Geoffrey Ikogha a local chief in Ahoada, near the oil hub of Port Harcourt.
The state’s information commissioner Ibim Semenitari told AFP the fire had been put out but emergency services were still trying “to clear the carnage.”
Crashes are common on Nigeria’s pot-holed and poorly maintained roads, and in a region where most people live on less than $2 a day the chance to collect spilling petrol is too much of a temptation, despite the high risk of fires.
The east-west road, which runs across the oil-producing region, has been scheduled for development for almost a decade and money is allocated for it in the budget each year.