A fire incident in southern Nigeria’s Emohua district, in an illegal oil refinery explosion claimed the lives of at least 18 individuals on Monday, including a pregnant woman. The horrific blaze was triggered when a makeshift refinery set off an adjacent oil reservoir, causing severe burns to the victims.
The catastrophic event unfolded in Rivers State, highlighting the perils of illegal refining activities in the oil-rich Niger Delta region. This practice, driven by impoverished locals seeking profit, often leads to deadly consequences.
Olufemi Ayodele, the spokesperson for the local Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, reported that the fire erupted during the late hours, leaving 18 victims unrecognizably charred, while 25 injured individuals were rescued. Most of the victims were young, with casualties even including a pregnant woman and a young lady preparing for her upcoming wedding next month, Aljazeera reported.
Another report from Reuters, quoting a local Ibaa community leader, Rufus Welekem, raised the death toll to as many as 37 people, with 35 caught in the blaze. Tragically, two individuals who managed to escape succumbed to their injuries in the hospital on Tuesday.
Illegal refining practices, such as tapping into pipelines to extract and sell fuel, persist in the region despite Nigeria’s attempts to crack down on them. The process, often involving crude oil being boiled in drums to extract fuel, poses significant safety hazards and has been notoriously challenging to curtail. Environmental groups argue that the involvement of influential politicians and security officials has contributed to the ongoing problem.
The persistent issues of crude oil theft, pipeline vandalism, and legal disputes over oil spills are prompting major oil companies operating in Nigeria to divest from onshore and shallow water assets, focusing instead on deepwater operations.