Up to 200 people died on Friday when an oil pipeline blew up at a beach village near the Nigerian economic capital, Lagos, a police officer at the scene said.
The officer, who asked not to be named, put the death toll at between 150 and 200 “or even more”.
The Nigerian Red Cross had earlier reported more than 100 deaths as a result of the explosion at Ilado beach village, near the port of Apapa, where numerous oil installations are located.
“Over one hundred people were burnt to death and beyond recognition following the explosion,” Nigerian Red Cross secretary general Abiodun Orebiyi said by telephone.
“We have been unable to recover any injured person. All of them were burnt beyond recognition. We found at the scene of the explosion about 500 jerrycans, which we suspect were used to steal fuel from the pipeline,” he said.
An Agence France-Presse correspondent at the scene reported seeing scores of carbonised, disfigured corpses floating on the water and lying under a boat that had been destroyed by the flames.
Only the bones remained of some of the victims.
There were indications several had tried to flee before the fireball completely engulfed them, the correspondent said.
Orebiyi said the “raging fire” has been put out and normality is returning to Ilado.
He said Red Cross workers at the scene have found evidence that people were trying to siphon off oil from the pipeline.
“We found that vandals have drilled holes on [into] the pipeline, from where they have been stealing fuel. We advise strongly Nigerians to desist from this dangerous act.”
Private television network Channels said firefighters and officials from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation were sent to Ilado village.
Hundreds of people have been killed in pipeline explosions in the past few years across Nigeria, many of whose citizens live in abject poverty despite the nation’s huge oil riches. — AFP