At least 100 people may have died in a refinery explosion in southeast Nigeria and at least two people suspects are believed to have been involved in the blast, NBC News reports.
According to reports, the explosion took place on Friday night at the Ohaji-Egbema local government area in Imo state and was triggered by a fire at two fuel storage areas where over 100 people worked.
“The fire occurred in an illegal bunkering site situated at the boundary between Rivers State and Imo State,” the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) said in a statement.
Several workers were caught in the explosion and many others tried to escape the blaze by running into wooded areas.
Goodluck Opiah, the Imo commissioner for petroleum resources said that casualties are estimated to be within “the range of 100.” The suspects are still at large.
“There are no arrests yet but the two culprits are on the run with the police now looking for them,” said Declan Emelumba, the Imo State Commissioner for information.
While Nigeria remains Africa’s largest producer of crude oil, it faced the constant challenge of oil storage and illegal refineries throughout the country.
Between January 2021 and February 2022, Nigeria lost at least $3 billion, to unauthorized business operators who evade regulators by setting up refineries in remote areas similar to the one that exploded in Imo, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) said in March.
For those who lost their lives in the blast, a mass burial is being planned in their honor.