Over 90 people were killed earlier today when a fuel tanker truck overturned in Nigeria’s Niger Delta. From the BBC:
The authorities say the vehicle did not immediately burst into flames so nearby villagers rushed to collect the fuel.
But the tanker then exploded, burning many of them to death.
Journalist Emeka Idika told the BBC a mass burial for those burnt beyond recognition would take place in Rivers state and about 35 people had been taken to hospital.
He said the death toll might be higher as some people from the nearby village of Okogbe were on fire as they ran into the bush — and their bodies had not yet been located.
A report from Reuters at Yahoo.com notes:
Crashes are common on Nigeria’s pot-holed and poorly maintained roads, and in a region where most people live on less than $2 a day the chance to collect spilling petrol is too much of a temptation, despite the high risk of fires.
The east-west road, which runs across the oil-producing region, has been scheduled for development for almost a decade and money is allocated for it in the budget each year.
Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, is plagued by corruption and inefficiency. Most years only about half budgeted programs are implemented.
The most tragic aspect of the disaster is that fuel transport-related accidents are hardly uncommon in Nigeria. In 2009, 70 people were killed when a tanker truck overturned and caught fire. In 2008, a pipeline caught fire, killing 100. In 2007, 34 were killed when they attempted to capture fuel from a leaking pipeline shortly before it exploded.
Update: Business Insider has a look at the black market for fuel in Nigeria.
The Niger Delta is home to some of Africa’s largest proven oil reserves, giving rise to an industry that is the fifth largest oil supplier to the United States and is dominated by international oil companies.
Local Nigerians, however, have long complained that the profits never reach them. Most live in abject poverty and have turned to stealing oil from corporate pipes to refine themselves and sell on the black market.