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The BBC's Barnaby Phillips
"Local youths feel the only way they can benefit from the region's oil wealth is by stealing."
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Monday, 17 July, 2000, 00:33 GMT 01:33 UK
New pipeline blaze in Nigeria
Firemen at work on Adeje fire
The fire comes less than a week after the last blaze
More than 30 people are reported to have been killed in a new oil pipeline fire in south-eastern Nigeria - less than a week after a similar explosion nearby left over 200 dead.

The latest explosion occurred on a river between the villages of Ifie and Ijala, south of the oil port of Warri - only 10km from the site of last week's fire.

A state government official told Reuters news agency that at least 30 had died, with the possibility that the toll could rise further.

Pipeline fires are common in the Niger Delta area, where thieves frequently puncture fuel pipelines to steal fuel.

The fire took place on a river where reports say that thieves were using boats to transport the fuel stolen from the pipeline.

River of fire

Eyewitnesses spoke of a slick of fire moving across the surface of the river, as fuel from the ruptured pipe spread over the water.

Several boats are reported to have been destroyed.

Journalists in the area say that the fire broke out around midday on Sunday.

They say there is little doubt that this fire - like last week's blaze - was caused by vandals.

Many of the dead had been carrying funnels and containers which they had apparently intended to use to steal petrol.

A few badly injured people were taken to a nearby hospital.

Extinguished

The fire had been extinguished by Sunday evening and there was no sign of damage to the nearby refinery.

Our Nigeria correspondent Barnaby Phillips says the fact that vandals were prepared to take the risk of rupturing a pipeline just six days after in the previous explosion will dismay the Nigerian authorities.

However, the police taskforce working in the Warri area specifically to prevent such incidents complained that it is under-staffed and poorly-equipped.

Local youths - often unemployed and hostile to the government - feel the only way they can benefit from the region's oil wealth is by stealing.

But, privately, the police suggest that there is also a significant level of corruption, in which officials are encouraging the youths to rupture the pipeline so that the petrol can be sold on Nigeria's thriving black market.

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Aid too late for pipeline victims
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