LAGOS, Nigeria — Jan 12, 2019, 12:33 PM ET

Dozens feared dead in Nigeria as leaking oil tanker explodes

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An overturned oil tanker exploded in Nigeria while dozens of people were scooping up the leaking fuel and many were killed, police and witnesses said Saturday.

Hundreds of people have died in similar accidents in recent years in Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, as impoverished people risk their lives to collect fuel leaking from pipelines or trucks.

"We have recovered 12 corpses and taken 22 persons with serious burns to hospital," police spokeswoman Irene Ugbo told The Associated Press. She said the blast occurred Friday evening in Odukpani in Cross River state in the southeast.

But some residents put the death toll closer to 60.

"The police only recovered a few corpses, many of the other dead were burnt to ashes," witness Richard Johnson told the AP.

He said about 60 people were inside a pit scooping fuel when the explosion occurred. "It is not likely that anyone inside the pit survived as there was a lot of fuel in the pit," Johnson said.

He suggested the blast was caused by an electrical generator that had been brought to the scene to help pump out the fuel for people's containers.

It was not immediately clear what caused the truck to overturn.

About a year ago, more than 30 residents in the same locality were burnt to death while scooping fuel from an oil tanker involved in an accident.

Nigeria's worst such accident occurred in 1998, when more than 1,000 people died as the leaking oil pipeline from which they were collecting fuel exploded in the town of Jesse.

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  • Chupacabra

    Causing an accident to gather the oil is pretty common in my understanding. They drag something out in the road as the truck approaches to cause it to swerve into a ditch or to crash. People worry about those stealing the oil more than they worry about the truck driver they killed or injured.

  • Sundown

    ***heavy sigh*** Rest in peace.

  • Kathleen King

    Okay, which international companies actually control the Nigerian oil fields and refineries? It would make such sense to "tax" these companies "in kind" there with delivery directly to people in need. perhaps a regulator valve?

  • CaptnBlynd

    Scooping spilled fuel up by hand, the dichotomy of the modern world. Medieval disregard for health and life in a high tech world.

    Examples like this are what convince me of the collapse of the global economy experiment. Trillions of dollars redirected across the world and people still risking their lives for pennies.