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International
Tuesday, 26-December-2006
Abuja (dpa) - - More than 200 people have been burned beyond recognition in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos on Tuesday after an oil pipeline exploded, police and Red Cross officials said.

A fire broke out as fuel thieves burst open the petroleum pipeline to scoop out fuel illegally, police said.

"Over 200 people are burnt beyond recognition," said Ige Oladimeji, a Red Cross official reached at the scene of the accident. He said the fire had been put out, but describe the site as "pandemonium."

"People are shouting. They are crying. They are trying to console people. Bodies are spread out on the ground. We can't recognize the bodies," he said from Lagos by telephone, as sirens blared in the background.

According to police, some of the thieves burned to death in the fire that ensued, while most of the victims were residents of Abule- Egba, a Lagos suburb, where the pipelines were laid.

Residents said thieves had successfully stolen more than 150,000 litres of petrol in five tankers and left the area. Then more thieves arrived and burst open the pipeline to steal more fuel.

In the scramble by the new set of thieves, a fire ignited, with many of the thieves catching fire and dying.

The fire later burnt many houses in the area, just as many residents were either killed or suffered varying degrees of burns.

Police spokesman in Lagos, Bode Ojajuni, said the police had ensured that the state-run Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation stopped pumping fuel through the affected pipes to assist in bringing the fire under control.

He said the dead were being taken to some mortuaries in the area, while more bodies were still being recovered.

A fuel scarcity that gripped Nigerian cities more than four weeks ago had made fuel a hot cake for thieves who make brisk business with stolen fuel.

Similar accidents have killed some 2,000 in the past decade in the oil-rich country.
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