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Number of Dead Rising from Pipeline Explosion in Nigeria - 2004-09-18

The most recent reports from an oil pipeline explosion in Nigeria say as many as 50 people may have been killed in the blast. Recovery efforts are continuing.

The charred bodies of more than four dozen people have been recovered from the explosion in a remote suburb of the commercial capital, Lagos.

According to the local police, the victims had been siphoning oil from a pipeline owned by the Nigeria state oil company, known as NNPC. Police say a spark from the motor of one of their boats ignited, causing the explosion.

The blast occurred in the early hours of Thursday morning, and fires were still burning late Friday. Thick black smoke billowed up from the remote market area, and could be seen for miles.

A police spokesman says bodies and body parts are still being recovered from nearby waterways by a team comprised of police officers, members of the navy and local fishermen.

It is not uncommon for so-called fuel thieves to tap into oil pipelines in Nigeria to sell the oil on the black market. There have been frequent accidents like Thursday's explosion that have caused hundreds of deaths over the last few years.

In June 2003, more than 100 people were killed in a similar explosion. The worst incidence of an explosion in Nigeria occurred almost six years ago, when more than 1,000 villagers from Delta state were burned beyond recognition while taking crude from a vandalized pipeline.

Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producing nation, but chronically suffers from fuel shortages due to mismanagement or technical problems in its refineries. The Nigerian government has been trying to crackdown on fuel thieves operating in the southern oil districts. Although hundreds have been arrested, the practice continues.