The explosion occurred after the tanker crashed into three other vehicles at Akobe on Ahoada-Mbiama in Rivers at 6:30 a.m., according to Kayode Olagunju, Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps. The tanker fell over, slid down an embankment and hundreds of local residents began scooping fuel from it. Then apparently a cigarette butt or a spark hit the fuel and the tanker exploded, trapping people in an inferno.
Some of those killed were motorcycle taxi drivers who had been trying to scoop the spilled fuel into their own tanks, which then also exploded when the fire started.
The tanker had swerved to avoid three oncoming vehicles on a road in the southern Rivers State, one of Nigeria’s main oil-producing provinces. A passing army unit tried to keep the residents away, but they moved past the army, many to meet their eventual death.
At the scene of the accident, Umesi Emenike, Zonal Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency for the South South Zone, said the fire had been brought under control and efforts are still in progress to rescue all affected. He also confirmed that no house was affected as the accident happened a distance away from any community.
Forces from the military’s Joint Task Force “got to the scene before us. They warned people to leave the scene to avoid disaster. But many of them were busy scooping fuel. They disobeyed,” Emenike Umesi said.
In March, a petrol tanker caught fire after skidding off the road further south in Nigeria, killing six people and injuring several others.
And April last year, a fuel tanker overturned at an army checkpoint the country’s center, sparking an inferno in which some 50 people were killed.