Posted by By SUNDAY ALAMBA, Associated Press Writer on
A ruptured gas pipeline exploded as villagers collected fuel in southwestern Nigeria Friday, killing up to 200 people and leaving charred bodies scattered around the blast site.
ILADO, Nigeria - A ruptured gas pipeline exploded as villagers collected fuel in southwestern Nigeria Friday, killing up to 200 people and leaving charred bodies scattered around the blast site.
Grim-faced rescue workers swung corpses into a mass grave as dozens of other bodies awaited collection next to the pipeline. It appeared some victims whose bodies lay further away had tried to flee the unfolding disaster only to be overtaken by flames spreading across the fuel slick.
The villagers had been collecting the gushing fuel outside the coastal village of Ilado, about 30 miles east of the main Nigerian city of Lagos, when the fuel ignited, police and rescue workers said.
"Between 150 and 200 people died," Lagos Police Commissioner Emmanuel Adebayo told reporters. The blast sent huge plumes of smoke billowing into the sky but the fire was later extinguished.
The Red Cross said it had workers helping survivors. Red Cross spokeswoman Okon Umoh said many of the bodies had fallen into the water.
Nigeria, which normally pumps 2.5 million barrels of crude per day, is Africa's leading oil producer, the world's seventh-biggest exporter and the fifth-biggest source of U.S. oil imports.
But most of its population remains impoverished and people often tap into pipelines crossing their lands, seeking fuel for cooking or resale on the black market. The highly volatile petroleum can ignite, incinerating those collecting it.
In September 2004, an oil pipeline exploded near Lagos as thieves tried to siphon oil from it, with up to 50 people perishing in the flames. A 1998 pipeline blast killed more than 1,000 people in southern Nigeria.
Most of Nigeria's oil is pumped to the east in the southern Niger Delta region, far from Ilado. But pipes carry the crude to refineries across the vast nation.
The oil industry also has been troubled by violence, with militants kidnapping foreign workers to press their demands for local control of oil revenues.
Three foreign oil workers who had been abducted in the oil hub of Port Harcourt were released, a day after they were snatched from a bus as they headed to work, regional police commander Samuel Adetuyi said.
It was the second attack this week on foreigners in Port Harcourt, where many oil-services companies keep their main Nigerian operations.
An unidentified gunman riding a motorcycle Wednesday shot and killed an American riding in a car to work at the offices of the U.S. drilling equipment maker Baker Hughes Inc. The FBI said it was assisting Nigerian authorities looking into the U.S. oil worker's killing.
The pipeline explosion and concerns about tempered a drop in crude oil futures as the International Energy Agency sharply cut its forecasts for world oil demand.
Prices held above $72 a barrel on concerns about nuclear diplomacy between the U.N. and Iran, and on the heels of the blast in Nigeria, where violence has curtailed oil output by some