Numerous workers were injured in the blast, while others fled into the wooded areas to escape the flames.
A local oil official stated Sunday that at least 100 people died in an explosion at a illegal oil refinery in Southeast Nigeria. The search for bodies and two suspects intensified on Sunday.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, in a statement, called the explosion a “catastrophe and a national disaster.”
According to state officials, the explosion at Ohaji-Egbema facility in Ohaji–Egbema area of Imo state’s local government was triggered by a fire at fuel storage areas, where more than 100 people were working.
Many workers were injured in the blast, while others fled into the wooded to escape the flames.
Those who died in the disaster are estimated to be within “the range of 100,” said Goodluck Opiah, the Imo commissioner for petroleum resources. “A lot of them ran into the bush with the burns and they died there.”
Buhari has directed the nation’s security forces “to intensify the clampdown” on such facilities being operated illegally in many parts of southern Nigeria, a spokesperson said in a statement.
Although Nigeria is Africa’s largest producer of crude oil, for many years its oil production capacity has been limited by a chronic challenge of oil storage and the operation of illegal refineries.
Nigeria was robbed of $3 billion in crude oil between January 2021-2022. Shady businessmen often avoid regulators and set up refineries in remote locations, such as that which exploded in Imo.
“There are no arrests yet but the two culprits are on the run with the police now looking for them,” said Declan Emelumba, the Imo State commissioner for information. Officials have not revealed the identities of the suspects.
A mass burial is being planned for those killed in the explosion, many of who “were burnt beyond recognition,” said Emelumba. Emelumba said that environmental officials began to fumigate the affected area.