At least 30 people were killed when a Pipeline and Product Marketing Company (PPMC) pipeline caught fire and exploded in Aba after a raid by suspected oil thieves.
The incident happened in the commercial centre of Abia State on Friday when vandals burst the pipeline operated.
“The incident occurred at about 1:30 am. Those burnt are more than 30 with many others sustaining injuries,” said Nnamdi Tochukwu, a survivor on his hospital bed in nearby Asaba.
A security officer, who did not want to be identified, confirmed the death toll.
“Over 30 bodies were burnt at the scene before the arrival of security operatives while many others are currently receiving medical attention at various hospitals within and outside the town,” the officer said.
The spokesman for Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said the victims were vandals attempting to scoop petrol from the pipeline.
“I can’t give the exact number of casualties for now, but the explosion was caused as a result of oil thieves who had hacked the line to intercept the flow of petrol from the Port Harcourt refinery to Aba,” Ndu Ughamadu told AFP.
He said an investigation was underway.
Also speaking on the incident, Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Maikanti Baru, expressed shock at the wanton wilful destruction of lives and properties occasioned by the incident.
Mr Baru prayed that God reposes the souls of the innocent ones that perished in the incident, even as he warned members of the public against tampering with oil and gas facilities many of which he said were inflammable.
He also called on host communities to create avenues to moderate criminal tendencies of a few bad eggs living among them.