At least 95 men, women and children were killed in Nigeria after a petrol tanker crashed and caught fire as people crowded around it to try and scoop up fuel, officials said.
Fuel tanker crashes are common on Nigeria’s poorly maintained roads, and in a region where most people live on less than $2 a day the chance to collect spilt petrol was too much of a temptation, despite the high risk of fires.
“The tanker driver was trying to avoid a head-on collision with two oncoming vehicles. He lost control and spilled its contents,” said Ben Ugwuegbulam, a Rivers State police spokesman, Reuters reports.
“The villagers trooped out to scoop the spilled fuel. The driver even warned them to leave the scene and suddenly there was fire … the casualty figure is 95 bodies, while many more are receiving treatment in hospital.”
The National Emergency Management Agency also said 95 people had been killed, adding that 18 were injured and in hospital.
Charred bodies lay in piles at the crash site, limbs stripped to the bone by the flames. Soldiers and emergency workers lifted the remains into trucks as bystanders took pictures with their mobile phones.
The chief medical officer at a nearby hospital, who asked not to be named, said he had neither the medicine nor the equipment to treat patients with severe burns.
“The doctors are not attending to us, they can only give a drip to the victims and now we have to take our brother away before he dies,” Sunday Akpara, whose brother was burned in the fire, told Reuters.
President Goodluck Jonathan issued a statement ordering relief to be sent to the wounded.
“President Jonathan is particularly distraught by the fact that once again, so many Nigerian lives have been lost in an avoidable fuel fire disaster,” the statement said.
The east-west road where the crash happened runs across the oil-producing region and has been scheduled for development for almost a decade. Each year, money is allocated for the road in the federal budget.
Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, is plagued by corruption and inefficiency. Most years, only about half of its budgeted programmes are actually implemented.