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The BBC's William Wallis in Lagos
"The cause of this pipeline disaster is yet to be established"
 real 28k

Friday, 1 December, 2000, 00:38 GMT
Nigeria oil blaze kills 50
Blaze near Lagos port, 30 Nov
Nigeria has been plagued by devastating oil fires
A fuel pipeline blaze has killed more than 50 people in a fishing village near the Nigerian city of Lagos.

Some of the victims, including children, were caught in billowing flames as they were scooping up petrol from the leaking pipeline.

An explosion ripped through the fractured pipeline near Ebute-Oko, a fishing village opposite the central business district of Lagos across a lagoon.

Nearby huts and wooden houses were engulfed by the fire. Many of the dead were reported to be fishermen burned alive in their dugout canoes.

Pipeline tragedies

Injured people were evacuated from the area by boat as firefighters struggled to contain the blaze.

Villagers said the pipeline, operated by the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), had been leaking for nearly two months.

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The incident is just the latest in a string of oil pipeline tragedies that have hit Nigeria in the past two years.

"There are dozens of bodies, more than 50," said Marine Police Officer Edward Agwale.

The cause of the blaze is not known, but a spokesman for the state oil company blamed it on the activities of people he described as fuel thieves.

Witnesses quoted by Reuters news agency said the fire was ignited by a wood stove where a woman was cooking in the open.

The pipeline lies near Atlas Cove, the main loading centre for fuel imported into Nigeria.

Oil thefts

Some oil leaks are caused by poor maintenance, but others occur after pipelines are deliberately punctured and the leaking fuel is siphoned off.

There is a thriving black market in fuel.

Nigeria is Africa's top oil exporter, but often faces shortages of refined products.

Many of Nigeria's pipeline fires have been in the Niger Delta region, which accounts for most of Nigeria's crude production of over two million barrels a day.

In July, at least 250 people died when fuel exploded at a pipeline near Warri.

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See also:

12 Jul 00 | Africa
Eyewitness: Hell after the fire
22 Oct 98 | Africa
Aid too late for pipeline victims
21 Oct 98 | Africa
Oil wealth: An unequal bounty
08 Jun 00 | Africa
Oil: Nigeria's blessing and curse
19 Jul 00 | Africa
Fuelling Nigeria's fires
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