At least 12 people have died in Nigeria after an overturned oil tanker exploded while they and others were gathering its leaking fuel, police and witnesses said.
“We have recovered 12 corpses and taken 22 persons with serious burns to hospital,” the police spokeswoman Irene Ugbo said. She said the blast occurred on Friday evening in Odukpani, Cross River state, in the south-east of the country. However, some residents put the death toll closer to 60.
“The police only recovered a few corpses, many of the other dead were burnt to ashes,” Richard Johnson, a witness, said.
He said about 60 people were inside a pit scooping up fuel when the explosion happened. “It is not likely that anyone inside the pit survived as there was a lot of fuel in the pit.”
He suggested the blast was caused by an electrical generator that had been brought to the scene to help pump out the fuel for people’s containers.
It was not immediately clear what caused the truck to overturn.
Hundreds of people have died in similar ways in recent years in the continent’s largest oil producing nation.
About a year ago, more than 30 people in the same area were burned to death while scooping fuel from a crashed oil tanker.
Nigeria’s worst such incident occurred in 1998, when more than 1,000 people died as the leaking oil pipeline from which they were gathering fuel exploded in the town of Jesse.