Nigerian authorities on Monday gathered the charred remains of over 100 people killed in an explosion at an illegal refinery in the south of the country and prepared for a mass burial after an accident described as a “catastrophe.”
“As of this morning, the death toll stands at 110, while many others with burns are receiving treatment in the hospitals,” said Ifeanyi Nnaji of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in the area.
According to Nnaji, the victims were burnt beyond recognition, making it difficult for their families to identify their bodies.
“We have gathered the charred remains of the victims for a mass burial,” Nnaji said, later confirming the ceremony would be on Tuesday.
Friday’s accident was one of the worst in years in an area where oil theft and illegal refining are common. The illegal activity inflicts huge losses and environmental damage in Nigeria every year.
Pipeline fires are commonplace in Nigeria, in part because of poor maintenance but also because of thieves who vandalize lines to siphon off oil, refine it at makeshift plants and sell the fuel on the black market.
The worst pipeline blast in Nigeria happened in the southern town of Jesse in October 1998, killing over 1,000 villagers.
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