The number of casualties after an oil product pipeline explosion in Nigeria has reached 200, local media report, as people from local communities have gathered to protest the negligence of the Nigerian national Petroleum Corporation, which, they said, was the reason for the explosion.
The pipeline exploded after it caught fire near the Aba Depot last week. NNPC at the time blamed the explosion on oil theft, which is still rampant in the Niger Delta despite many attempts by the government to put an end to the dangerous practice. The cause of the fire, the company said, could have been oil thieves trying to divert some of the fuel flowing along the pipeline from Port Harcourt to Aba.
Protesters, however, claim that NNPC’s negligence led to leaks in the pipeline and it was these leaks that caused the explosion.
Some 2,000 young people from communities in proximity to the pipeline system gathered at the Aba Depot and barricaded its entrance with a coffin containing the remains of one of the victims of the blast, Nigeria’s Vanguard reported.
The latest update from Reuters, however, puts the number of fatalities resulting from the pipeline blast at 60, as announced by the National Emergency Management Agency. Meanwhile, the System 2E pipeline system of which the exploded pipe is part, has been shut down, but will soon be up and running again.
“We will resume the pumping of products very soon,” Reuters quoted an NNPC spokesman as saying.
“We had put out the fire. We are now pumping water in the pipeline to detect other possible areas of leakages.”
The System 2E network carries fuels from the two refineries in Port Harcourt to the southeastern and northern parts of Nigeria. The refineries, Reuters notes, have a capacity of 210,000 bpd but are operating at run rates that are a lot lower than this capacity.