NIGER DELTA (Reuters) - At least 92 people including women and children were killed on Thursday after a gasoline tanker crashed on the east-west road in Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta and caught fire as people tried to scoop up fuel, a Reuters witness said.
"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," Rivers State police spokesman Ben Ugwuegbulam said.
Ugwuegbulam said it was too early to give a casualty figure but a Reuters witness at the scene counted 92 dead bodies of men, women and children.
Hundreds of people crowded around as soldiers and emergency workers lifted bodies into ambulances and police trucks. The fuel tanker was a pile of smouldering ash, twisted metal and melting tyres.
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 programmes are implemented.
At least 95 people have so far been confirmed dead from a petrol tanker explosion in Rivers state today.
Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps in the state, Kayode Olagunju said that the tanker crashed into three other vehicles at Okobe on Ahoada -Mbiama on the East -West road in Rivers state around 6:30am this morning. Residents were scooping fuel from the fallen tanker when it exploded, he posted on his Facebook wall.
"Casualty figures on the Okobe tanker crash on Ahoada - Mbiama on the East-West road in Rivers state as at 13:00 hrs. 93 died on the spot (burnt), 2 died in the hospital, making 95 deaths, while 18 persons were injured. 4 vehicles, (1 tanker, 1 Toyota corolla car, 1 Hummer bus and 1 Mitsubushi bus) and 34 motorcycles were burnt. High casualties recorded as people were scooping fuel from the crashed trailer when the tanker exploded," Olagunju posted.
Speaking to Daily Trust from the scene of the accident, Zonal Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency for the South South Zone, Umesi Emenike, said the fire has 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.