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Sunday, 2 February, 2003, 18:50 GMT
'Many' dead in Nigeria blast
Scenes of devastation in Lagos
Crowds gathered at the scene of the blast
Rescue efforts have been continuing in Nigeria after an explosion ripped through buildings in the centre of the commercial capital Lagos, killing dozens of people.

Many others were injured in the blast in the heart of the business district, which appears to have centred on a four-storey complex of shops and homes, flanked by local banks.

There are over 30 bodies in the mortuary and there could still be many more dead in the debris

Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu

The police said there were no indications that the blast at 1130GMT was the result of anything other than an accident, but they are still investigating.

There had been some local speculation that it might have been caused by a bomb.

The force of the blast, which could be heard kilometres (miles) away, ripped the facade off the shopping complex, while one of the adjoining buildings almost totally collapsed.

Huge crowds gathered at the scene, hampering access for the police and emergency services.

Heavy lifting gear was taken in to lift slabs of concrete in the hope of finding survivors trapped under the rubble.

Chaos

"There are over 20 bodies in the mortuary and there could still be many more dead in the debris," Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu told journalists at the site of the blast.

Woman lights candle at ceremony to remember victims of last year's blast
Just days ago Lagos marked the anniversary of another terrible explosion

The BBC's Dan Isaacs said the scene was one of utter confusion, with looters taking away computer equipment and other valuables from the shops and banks.

Police responded by firing in the air to warn off looters, and beating anyone who came too close, our correspondent says.

According to local residents, some of the victims were in other blocks, away from the building which bore the brunt of the blast.

"My uncle was in the balcony of our house talking with a friend and the force of the explosion threw them down," Remi Oyebanji told the Associated Press.

"They're both dead."

Only last week, Nigerians commemorated the first anniversary of a huge explosion at an arms depot in Lagos in which more than 1,000 people were killed.

Most of the victims drowned in a canal after being trampled underfoot in a stampede of people fleeing the explosion.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Dan Isaacs reports from Lagos
"The scene just yards from the explosion remains extremely chaotic"
See also:

02 Feb 03 | Africa
28 Jan 02 | Africa
28 Jan 02 | Africa
29 Jan 02 | Africa
27 Nov 02 | Country profiles
09 Jan 03 | Africa
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