An explosion at illegal oil refining depot in Nigeria’s Rivers state has killed over 100 people overnight, a local government official and the NGO Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC) said on Saturday.
“The fire outbreak occurred at an illegal bunkering site and it affected over 100 people who were burnt beyond recognition,” the state commissioner for petroleum resources, Goodluck Opiah, said.
Victims were ‘burnt beyond recognition’ according to officials.
High unemployment in the Niger Delta has made illegal crude refining an attractive business. It involves illegal tapping of crude from a maze of pipelines owned by oil majors and burning it at high temperature in makeshift tanks.
The hazardous process adds another layer of pollution in a region that has endured oil spills for decades and destroyed farmlands, creeks and lagoons.
Local authorities have started a crackdown to try put a stop to illegal refining of stolen crude, a process known locally as “Kpo Fire”, which officials say is worsening air pollution in the Delta and causing respiratory problems for some residents.
Samuel Nwanosike, chairman of Ikwerre local government area in Port Harcourt said 128 of 142 illegal refining sites identified by authorities in the area had been destroyed since a crackdown started in January.
It comes after Islamic State claimed a Friday night bombing in Nigeria’s Taraba state capital Jalingo, a statement by the group on messaging channel Telegram said.
The bomb injured 11 people including children, police said.