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At Least 100 Killed in Nigerian Pipeline Explosion - 2003-06-21


Explosion of Vandalized Pipeline Kills at Least 100 in Nigeria Pipeline vandalism, known as 'bunkering' or 'scooping,' is common in Nigeria, despite risk of deadly fire, harsh punishment,

In southeastern Nigeria, the explosion of a vandalized oil pipeline has killed more than 100 people and injured dozens more while they were scavenging leaked fuel. The explosion occurred on Thursday in a remote area, but news was slow to emerge, because many feared prosecution.

Residents from an area about 50 kilometers north of Umuahia, the capital of Abia state, say thieves had been scooping fuel from the pipeline, since it was punctured six weeks ago.

They say the pipeline owners continued to pump fuel through the line, despite being informed of the breakage. However, another source said the operators did not know of the rupture, until the explosion occurred.

Witnesses say police colluded with vandals, by charging villagers to scoop up buckets and barrels of fuel for resale.

Pipeline vandalism, known as "bunkering" or "scooping," is common in Nigeria, despite the risk of deadly fire and harsh punishment, including being shot on sight by security forces.

Officials say a motorbike next to the pipeline apparently caused a spark Thursday, setting off the huge explosion. Some community leaders say the blast took place earlier this month, but that the resulting fire was still raging Friday.

Aid workers say severe burn victims began arriving at hospitals in the Abia state capital late this week.

Hundreds of people have been killed in recent years in Nigeria while stealing oil from ruptured pipelines.

Nigeria is one of the world's top 10 oil exporters, and pipelines often run through poor communities, where oil shortages are common.

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