Abuja: As many as 18 people including a pregnant woman have been killed in an explosion at an illegal oil refinery in southern Nigeria, a security official and residents said, Al Jazeera reported.
The explosion took place early on Monday in Rivers State’s Emohua district when a homemade refinery ignited a nearby oil reservoir, leaving victims severely burned.
A spokesman for the local Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Olufemi Ayodele, said: “The fire outbreak started at a very late hour … 18 victims were burnt beyond recognition while 25 injured persons were rescued.”
“Most of the victims were youths … a pregnant woman and a young lady getting ready for her marriage ceremony next month were all casualties,” he said, as per Al Jazeera.
Illegal refining is common in the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria as impoverished locals tap pipelines to make fuel to sell for a profit. The practice, which can be as basic as boiling crude oil in drums to extract fuel, is often deadly, according to Al Jazeera.
Nigeria, an OPEC member, has for years tried to clamp down on illegal crude refineries, with little success, in part because powerfully connected politicians and security officials are involved, local environmental groups say.
Crude oil theft, pipeline vandalism and legal battles over oil spills are pushing oil majors operating in Nigeria to sell their onshore and shallow water assets to concentrate on deepwater operations, as per Al Jazeera.