The explosion in the Rumuekpe community in the Emuoha government area of Rivers occurred as local residents were scooping oil from an oil pipeline passing the community, said Grace Iringe-Koko, the spokesperson for the Rivers police.
"So far, at least 12 persons were believed to have been burned to death. The identities of the victims are unknown," Iringe-Koko said.
Some five vehicles and four tricycles, which were to be used by local people in the area to siphon fuel from the pipeline, were burned to ashes at the explosion site.
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According to reports by local media, the incident occurred in the early hours of Friday as a bus loaded with crude oil siphoned from the pipeline went up in flames while heading to an illegal refining point in the area, resulting in the explosion.
Oil pipeline vandalism and oil theft are frequently reported in Nigeria. Illegal oil refineries operate by tapping crude oil from pipelines and distilling it into products in improvised tanks.
“All those who were at the exact tapping point in the ‘pit’ got killed while some of those who had loaded the crude and waiting to load including women have been killed by the explosion,” said the Youths and Environmental AdvocCentre (YEAC), a non-governmental organization, as reported by Al Arabiya.