Ibim Semenitari said: “More than 100 people were killed in the inferno from the petrol tanker, while around 50 with severe burns have been hospitalised.”
The tanker swerved as it was trying to avoid a collision with three oncoming vehicles including a bus, said Kayode Olagunju, sector commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission in the southern Rivers state.
The fuel tanker crashed into some vehicles and fell, spilling its content but didn’t immediately burst into flames. Unfortunately it exploded when residents of the area went to the scene to scoop fuel from the tanker.
Four vehicles, (1 tanker, 1 Toyota corolla saloon, 1 hummer bus and 1 Mitshibushi bus) and 34 motorcycles were burnt.
Rivers State police spokesman Ben Ugwuegbulam explained:
“Early this morning a tanker loaded with petrol fell in Okogbe and people trooped to the scene obviously to scoop the spilled fuel and suddenly there was fire resulting in casualties.”
A mass burial for those burnt beyond recognition is about to take place in Rivers state and about 35 people have been taken to hospital.
The accident happened in an area called Ahoada near the oil hub of Port Harcourt in Nigeria’s crude-producing Niger Delta region.
Motorcycle taxi driver Kingsley Jafure said the vehicle collision occurred at roughly 6:00 am, and the spilled petrol caught fire about 90 minutes later, but that time sequence could not be immediately confirmed by officials.
“At about 7:30 while I was inside trying to decide whether to go (scoop fuel) or not. That is when I saw that the tanker exploded,” Jafure said.
Report says the death toll may be higher as some villagers were consumed in the fire as they ran into the bush – and those bodies have not yet been located.
A team of police officers, soldiers and emergency workers were dispatched to the scene, where burnt bodies were removed.