Low-graphic news index |
Friday, July 13, 2012 - Page updated at 08:30 p.m.
Nigerian tanker fire kills 95; some tried to scoop up fuel
By YINKA IBUKUN
The Associated Press
LAGOS, Nigeria — A truck carrying fuel veered off the road into a ditch, caught fire and exploded in Nigeria's oil-rich delta on Thursday, killing at least 95 people who had rushed to the scene to scoop fuel that had spilled, an official said, in a tragic reminder of how little of the country's oil wealth has trickled down to the poor.
At least 50 others were injured in the incident in the southern Niger Delta region, said Rivers State spokeswoman Ibim Semenitari. Witnesses said some charred corpses were still lying in the area hours after the explosion, including bodies the size of children. "What did these small ones know about coming to scoop fuel?" wondered Alagoa Morris, coordinator at advocacy group Oil Watch Nigeria.
The location of some of the bodies suggested that they were trying to run away when fire consumed them, Morris added.
"How can people who have enough to eat scoop oil that belongs to someone else?" said Morris. "It is poverty."
The fuel truck was trying to avoid a head-on collision with buses when it swerved into the ditch Thursday morning, said Rivers State police spokesman Ben Ugwuegbulam. It then overturned, spilling fuel that people immediately swarmed to collect.
Yushau Shuaib, a spokesman for the West African country's emergency management agency, said the 95 people were killed in the explosion that ensued. It was not immediately clear what had caused the fire that left the truck burned to ashes.
Despite decades as an oil-producing region, the majority of those living in the Niger Delta remain desperately poor and mostly without access to proper medical care, education or work. Anger over the situation on several occasions has driven young people to attack foreign oil firms based there and steal fuel from pipelines.
The truck accident took place near Okogbe, about 40 miles away from Port Harcourt city, Nigeria's oil capital in the delta — a region of swamps, mangroves and creeks roughly the same size as South Carolina. A pipeline and a filling station were near the accident site, but neither was affected.
President Goodluck Jonathan said in a statement he is "deeply saddened by the loss of many lives" and "particularly distraught by the fact that once again, so many Nigerian lives have been lost in an avoidable fuel-fire disaster."
Copyright © The Seattle Times Company
Low-graphic news index
Graphic-enabled home page