A crashed fuel tanker has blown up in Nigeria, killing nearly 100 people. The victims literally died for oil as they were scooping up the "black gold" spilling out of the vehicle before it exploded.
At least 95 people were killed near the Nigerian oil center Port Harcourt on Thursday after an overturned oil tanker exploded.
Hundreds of impoverished bypassers had rushed towards the tanker to scoop up fuel using pans after the tanker tipped over near Port Harcourt, located more than 600 kilometers (400 miles) south east of Lagos. When the tanker burst into flames, scores of people were buzzing around the vehicle. It is not yet clear what ignited the explosion.
"Early this morning a tanker loaded with petrol fell in Okogbe and people trooped to the scene obviously to scoop the spilled fuel and suddenly there was fire resulting in casualties," Rivers State police spokesman Ben Ugwuegbulam stated.
"At about 7:30 while I was inside trying to decide whether to go (scoop fuel) or not. That is when I saw that the tanker exploded," added Kingsley Jafure, a local motorcycle taxi driver
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said in a statement that "rescue workers from the police, road safety, fire service, civil defence and NEMA were at the scene to evacuate victims and control the traffic." But 93 people were declared dead on the scene and two more died later in hospital. About 20 were taken to hospital after the accident, many with serious injuries.
The vehicle had swerved to avoid crashing into three other vehicles, according to Kayode Olagunju, sector commander of the southern Rivers State's Federal Road Safety Commission.
A tragically familiar story
Major accidents are a common tragedy in Nigeria, where roads are often poorly maintained and dangerous.
The practice of trying to scoop up oil after petrol vehicle crashes is also far from unheard of in the country. The willingness to engage in such risky activity is seen as a reflection of the fact that oil is regarded as a valuable commodity, especially in a country where, according to the latest World Bank estimates, 55 percent of the population live below the national poverty line.
It is not the first time this year that a petrol tanker crash has claimed victims in Nigeria. In March, an oil tanker skidded off a road and then burst into flames in Port Harcourt, killing six people. Last April, an oil vehicle turned over at an army checkpoint in central Nigeria. Fifty people died after it subsequently exploded.
sej/pfd (dpa, AFP)