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Blast at illegal refinery kills 110 in Nigeria

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YENAGAO: An explosion killed 110 people at an illegal oil refining depot in Nigeria on Saturday.

“There are so many people that died here. I’m pleading to the government to look into this,” Uche Woke, a commercial bike rider, said at the scene of the blast.

The Nigerian Red Cross Society was on the scene on Sunday to assess the blast, which destroyed a section of the Abaezi forest.

Flip flops, bags and clothing belonging to those who died littered the ground almost 24 hours after the tragedy. The site was still emitting smoke despite overnight rain.

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

Unemployment and poverty in the oil producing Niger delta have made illegal refining attractive, but with often deadly consequences. Crude oil is tapped from a web of pipelines owned by major oil companies and refined in makeshift tanks.

The process has led to fatal accidents and polluted a region already blighted by oil spills in farmland, creeks and lagoons.

The Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre said several vehicles that were in a queue to buy illegal fuel were burnt. “The fire outbreak occurred at an illegal bunkering site and it affected over 100 people,” an official said.

The border location of the refinery was a reaction to a recent crackdown in Rivers on illegal refining in an effort to reduce worsening air pollution.

“In the last month or two, there were several raids and some security agents involved were tackled,” Ledum Mitee, former president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), said.

Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2022

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