YAOUNDE, CAMEROON - Cameroon has increased troops around its lone oil refinery, after a weekend explosion caused a shutdown of the facility. But the government denies separatist fighters were responsible and says there will be no shortages of petroleum products.
Christine Enanga, a 21-year old trying to buy cooking gas from a supplier in Cameroon's capital Yaounde, worries that in days ahead she may not be able to find the commodity.
"I came to buy four bottles of [cooking] gas," she said, "but they told me they could not sell four, that they could only sell two because other people are buying and I know there would be serious scarcity in Cameroon."
Drivers are also buying and stocking fuel. The scare was sparked after a storage tank exploded Saturday night at Cameroon's only oil refinery in the town of Limbe, in the Southwest region.
The blast caused a fire that damaged parts of the refinery and shut down output. No lives were lost.
Cameroon's Trade Minister Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana said there will be no shortages and no price increases of petroleum products.
He said Cameroon two years ago found itself in a similar difficult situation, when the national refinery shut down its doors for eight months for rehabilitation. He said shortages in supply were minimal because imports were increased without increasing prices.
He urged people to remain calm.
Rebels fighting to separate the English-speaking parts of Cameroon from the Francophone majority claimed responsibility for the explosion on social media. They said the refinery was attacked because English speakers benefit very little from the company.
Government spokesperson Rene Emmanuel Sadi said proceeds from the company are used to develop all of Cameroon and refuted claims that the explosion was perpetrated by secessionist fighters. He said early investigations indicate it was an accident.
He said details of the accident that blew up parts of the refinery will be made public soon. He added that the military has been deployed to make sure the refinery and its equipment are totally protected.
The refinery, which is almost entirely state-owned, supplies 2.2 million tons of crude a year to Cameroon and countries of the region including Togo, Nigeria, and Ghana.