NIGERIA. Imo State: At least 100 people have been killed and 150 people were injured on Sunday at an illicit oil refinery plant in Abaeza woodland, Ohaji-Egbema local government area.
An eyewitness informed reporters that the resident spotted fire engulfing Abaezi forest in the early hours of Sunday. Due to the velocity at which the fire was devouring the forest, neighbours were hesitant to approach the location of the tragedy.
Residents were able to acquire access to the scene later, when the fire had been reduced to a bare minimum, and tallied roughly 100 people dead and over 150 more injured.
“Some of the injured persons have been evacuated to the community health care facility where some were ejected by the health personnel due to the degree of the injuries which require bigger attention,” an eyewitness further stated.
“The bush was completely engulfed in flames. We were able to see the people that were inside. The fire engulfed many people, trapping them inside. Some of those who ventured outdoors perished later, since many of them were turned down by the village health centre when we hurried them there.”
On his visit to the scene, Imo state executive governor Hope Uzodimma condemned the conduct and advised those involved in illicit activities in the state to stop. “Anyone caught will face the full force of the law,” he added.
Uzodimma, who was represented by the Commissioner for Petroleum Resources, GoodLuck Opiah, went on to say that illicit refineries’ activities have resulted in the deaths of a large number of people in the state.
According to Opiah, the proprietor of the illicit refinery site, Okenze Onyewoke, is in the state government’s radar for his illegal activities in the state.
“The people of Abaeza, who are largely farmers and fishermen, have had their means of livelihood disrupted by this illegal activity in the area because it has decimated the entire community’s aquatic life,” Opiah said.
Opiah acknowledged that the majority of those involved in criminal operations are not Imo residents, but rather strangers from the bordering states of Cross River and Bayelsa.
Opiah, speaking on behalf of the Imo state government, urged the youth to shun the criminal behaviour. “It’s a suicidal venture that people shouldn’t get involved in.”
“The state government sympathizes with the families of those who lost their lives and prays to God to give them the fortitude to bear the loss,” Opiah added.