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An explosion at an unauthorized oil refinery in southern Nigeria resulted in the deaths of at least 18 people, including a pregnant woman.
The disaster transpired in Rivers State’s Emohua district on Monday when a makeshift refinery set ablaze an adjacent oil reservoir, causing extensive burn injuries to the victims.
Olufemi Ayodele, the local Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps representative said, “18 victims were burnt beyond recognition while 25 injured persons were rescued.” He further revealed, “Most of the victims were youths … a pregnant woman and a young lady getting ready for her marriage ceremony next month were all casualties.”
Contrasting reports from the Reuters referenced a leader from the local Ibaa community put the death toll as high as 37. Rufus Welekem, the chief of security in that community, confirmed, “Thirty-five people were caught in the fire. Two people who were lucky to escape also died this morning [Tuesday] in the hospital.”
Illegal refining operations are common in Nigeria’s oil-abundant Niger Delta area. These activities, usually executed by economically challenged locals who extract fuel from tapped pipelines for profit, are frequently accompanied by severe consequences.
Despite Nigeria’s status as one of Africa’s prominent oil producers, the nation has continually struggled to curtail such unauthorized refineries. This persistent challenge is further complicated by influential politicians and security officials who partake in these illicit operations.
Increasing incidents of crude oil theft, legal disputes over oil spillages, and pipeline vandalism are leading major oil firms in Nigeria to consider divesting from onshore and shallow water assets, focusing instead on deepwater ventures.