RIVERS, Nigeria, July 12 — Police in southeast Nigeria's Rivers on Thursday said more than 100 persons were feared to be burnt to death, while many were injured while scooping fuel from a fallen tanker in the early hours of the day.
Spokesperson for the state police command Ben Ugwuegbulam confirmed the incident to Xinhua on phone from his base in Port Harcourt, the state capital, saying the petrol-carrying tanker crashed with three other vehicles, 11 km from Ahoada-Mbiama on the east-west road in Rivers, and there erupted fire.
A Xinhua reporter at the scene of the incident said the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) has recovered more than 80 bodies from the scene of a tanker which burst into flames.
"People were scooping fuel from the tanker when it exploded, casualty figures definitely high," he added.
The reporter said police, fire fighters and the Joint Task Force were at the scene to ensure that miscreants do not take laws into their hands.
In a statement reaching Xinhua, the sector commander for FRSC, Kayode Olagunju, said the dead bodies were recovered as of 11:45 a. m. local time.
According to him, four vehicles, including the tanker, were involved in the crash early on Thursday, but the tanker caught fire when the people rushed for free fuel.
He also said casualty figures were "definitely high", adding about 20 injured persons have already been taken to hospitals and 34 motor-cycles also got burnt.
Stealing fuel from oil pipeline or taking oil from broken-down oil tanker truck is very common in Nigeria, Africa's leading oil producer. But mismanagement and corruption has his the refining sector, causing chronic fuel shortages.
The past few years have witnessed a string of pipeline explosions, with each killing at least dozens of people.
Nearly 300 people were burnt to death in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos on Dec. 26, 2006, as they scooped fuel from a vandalized pipeline. (PNA/Xinhua) /CTB/mmg