An explosion in an illegal refinery in Nigeria causes at least a hundred deaths | International

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An explosion at an illegal oil refinery killed at least 100 people on Saturday in the Ohaji-Egbema area of ​​Imo State in southeastern Nigeria. The charred bodies were scattered among burned palms, vehicles and trucks, after the accident that began around noon. Hours later, shoes, bags and clothes of the deceased were found lying on the ground and blackened by oil and soot, while the refinery facilities were still emitting smoke despite the overnight rain. According to sources in the Nigerian daily Daily Post, another 150 people have been injured after the fire. In addition, six vehicles queuing to buy illegal fuel were also burned.

"I beg the government to investigate this," Uche Woke, a commercial cyclist, told Reuters at the scene of the blast on Saturday night. The Nigerian Red Cross went to the scene on Sunday to assess the explosion, which destroyed a part of the Abaezi forest, located on the border of Imo State. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari stressed in a statement that he will intensify the crackdown on illegal refineries and described the event as a "catastrophe" and "national disaster."

The commissioner of Petroleum Resources of the State of Imo, Goodluck Opiah, explained that the regional government has declared in search and capture the owner of the refinery, who has been identified as Okenze Onyenwoke. The authorities had repeatedly warned about the danger of opening illegal refineries both for the people who work in them and for the environment. In February, the local authorities of the State of Rivers, close to Imo and also affected by this practice, had launched a campaign against the refining of stolen crude oil, in an effort to reduce air pollution and prevent more accidents in the region. , in which 25 deaths were also recorded last October in an explosion like the one that occurred in Imo.

Unfortunately, according to the country's authorities, unemployment and poverty in the Niger Delta, one of the largest oil-producing places in Africa, have made the illegal refinery attractive. In this process, crude oil is extracted from a network of pipelines owned by major oil companies and refined in makeshift tanks. This activity has caused fatal accidents and has polluted especially the southern region of the country, which on several occasions has been affected by oil spills on farmland, streams and lagoons.

Government officials estimate that Nigeria loses an average of 200,000 barrels of oil per day, more than 10% of production, due to crude pipeline vandalism.

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