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Published:May 29th, 2006 02:12 EST
Fuel Blasts Kill Hundreds In Africa.

Fuel Blasts Kill Hundreds In Africa.

By Juliet Maruru

A pipeline explosion on the outskirts of Nigeria`s largest city, Lagos killed hundreds of people on Friday, May 12 2006. The death toll quickly rose to 200 within the next few days. Apparently, vandals had been tapping oil from the pipeline when the accident happened. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo received the news  "with great sadness and concern`, while at the Fifth Summit of D-8 countries. The President ordered the police to conduct a full investigation on the cause of the explosion. The President`s statement also said that the accident was a grave reminder of similar occurrences in the region and warned people against undertaking actions that could cause such catastrophes.

Lagos has been hit by explosions before. In 1998 in Jesse, Delta State, 1,000 people perished in a fuel inferno. In 2003, 125 persons were killed in Aba. In September 2004, a pipeline also burst into flames when people tried to siphon oil from it. Only last month, it was the turn of residents of Oke-Aro, a suburb of Lagos, to host the calamity.

Vandals are usually blamed for these catastrophes. This may be true, but experts have also laid the blame on the rusty condition of some of the pipelines, which makes them highly vulnerable and tempting to opportunists. Dilapidated pipelines could even burst as a result of their own internal pressure. In the past, some community leaders had alleged that whenever leakages were reported to the relevant authorities, they never got adequate responses.

In Benin, another country in West Africa, more than 100 people were badly burnt or burnt to death in an explosion, as they tried to gather fuel from a petrol tanker that had plunged into a ditch on Friday, May 26, 2006. Local people started collecting gasoline from the damaged tanker, but the heat from the engine ignited the fuel and caused the explosion, local police said.

Events like these are difficult to handle in these areas where medical staff and equipment are normally limited and terribly inadequate during disasters. Experts and community leaders now call for extra security for the pipelines and education for communities where the pipelines pass on the dangers of tampering with the pipelines.