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Last Updated: Friday, 12 May 2006, 21:44 GMT 22:44 UK
Scores die in Nigeria fuel blast
Emergency workers carry human remains by stretcher
Many of the bodies were moved up the beach to a shallow grave
More than 150 people have been killed in an explosion at a petrol pipeline near Nigeria's largest city, Lagos.

Police and Red Cross officials at the scene of the blast, on Atlas Creek Island, said many of the bodies had been burnt beyond recognition.

Reports suggest the blast may have been caused by an attempt to tap illegally into the high pressure pipeline.

Almost 2,000 people have died in a number of similar incidents in the country in recent years.

Government spokesman Chief Femi Fani Kayode told the BBC that, while he regretted the loss of life, the authorities had done all they could to make people aware of the dangers of this practice.

"If they decide to take that risk then they have to look at the attending consequences, and the blame for that cannot be put on the doorstep of anybody, least of all the government," he said.

Jerrycans

Eyewitnesses in Lagos said they had seen thick black smoke rising from a nearby area after the blast, which occurred early on Friday morning.

Map
We should also remember that most of the pipes are very very old and rusted and do leak out on their own and the poor people have no choice but to 'steal'

Andrew Nanna, Lagos

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says the blast incinerated all those within a 20m radius, but the exact number of casualties may not be known for some time.

Bodies were strewn over a beach near the site of the blast and many had been thrown into the water.

Afterwards, emergency workers carried corpses up the beach on stretchers and buried them in a shallow grave.

The Nigerian Red Cross said local people arrived on the scene after thieves had initially ruptured the pipeline.

"We found that vandals have drilled holes on [into] the pipeline, from where they have been stealing fuel," said Nigerian Red Cross Secretary General Abiodun Orebiyi.

"We advise strongly Nigerians to desist from this dangerous act."

Local people were apparently gathered around the site of the leak when the fuel ignited. Five hundred jerrycans were found at the scene.

Appeal to injured

The BBC's Sola Odunfa in Lagos says any villagers who survived would have fled in case they were arrested for stealing petrol.

NIGERIA PIPELINE DISASTERS
Dec 2004: At least 20 killed in Lagos
Sept 2004: At least 60 killed in Lagos
June 2003: At least 105 killed in Abia State
Jul 2000: At least 300 killed in Warri
Mar 2000: At least 50 killed in Abia State
Oct 1998: At least 1,000 killed in Jesse

"We have combed through the bushes and nearby creeks to see if we can find those injured so that we give them medical assistance," Mr Orebiyi said.

"We have seen none yet. We are appealing to those who may be in hiding to come out for medical attention."

Our correspondent says Atlas Creek is a small fishing community but some people have moved there because rent is cheaper than Lagos, where they commute by speedboat.

The pipeline serves the Atlas Cove petrol depot, which supplies south-western Nigeria.

Despite being the eighth largest oil exporter in the world, Nigeria has to re-import refined oil products, such as petrol, because of decades of neglect of its own refineries.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Everything boils down to poverty - I wonder why a country as rich as Nigeria is in this kind of predicament
Nlolu Omotosho, Houston, TX
The pipelines often pass through poor communities, who break them to steal the precious fuel.

Militants have frequently targeted the centre of Nigeria's oil industry in the Niger Delta, further to the east.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
See black smoke pouring from the area of the pipeline blast





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