In a devastating incident that unfolded at an illegal oil refining site in the Ibas community, located in the Emuoha Local Government Area of Rivers State, over 17 lives were tragically lost, including that of a pregnant woman.
The calamity struck late on a Sunday night when a group of individuals in the community was engaged in the unlawful activity of siphoning petroleum products.
According to Emmanuel, a resident of the area, the victims were involved in selling the illicitly obtained product at the refining site when disaster suddenly struck in the form of a violent explosion.
Emmanuel recounted, ” More than 40 people were there at the site. They were there scooping crude oil when the place caught fire. The fire came from a refining site that was close to the point where they were scooping crude oil. Many Isiokpo and Oduoha people and Ibaa people were there.”
He continued, “Seven of the people died inside the pit where they were scooping the crude. About 10 were burnt to charcoal by the pit. About 30 people died at the site while over 15 have been rushed to the hospital. I hear that three of them have died while they were being rushed to the hospital.”
Olufemi Ayodele, the spokesperson for the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in Rivers State, issued a statement confirming the heartbreaking details of the incident. Among the victims were a recent college graduate and a woman who had been planning to wed next month.
Ayodele reported that 18 individuals sustained severe burns in the explosion, but thankfully, 25 others were successfully rescued by NSCDC operatives.
Initial investigations have suggested that the explosion was triggered by the presence of a makeshift local refinery cooking pot located dangerously close to an oil reservoir containing highly combustible materials. As the temperature soared, the surrounding environment became engulfed in flames.
“There is a need for conscious effort and stronger collaborations with the traditional institutions, community youths, and religious leaders amongst others to fight against oil bunkering activities in our various communities and this begins with giving credible intelligence and information to the NSCDC which remains the lead agency in the fight against vandalism of oil pipelines and protection of critical national assets and Infrastructures in Rivers State,” Ayodele said.