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Explosions and fires ravage southern Nigerian port

23 July 2012

According to local sources in Nigeria, Port Harcourt was the scene of a number of fires and explosions on July 21 that claimed an indeterminate number of lives. The first incident happened after a barge carrying fuel exploded at Abuloma jetty, reportedly caused by welders trying to repair a leaking fuel tank. 

Up to 30 may have died in the fuel barge fire at Abuloma jetty in Port Harcourt
Up to 30 may have died in the fuel barge fire at Abuloma jetty in Port Harcourt

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said it had recovered four bodies from the barge but up to 30 were thought to have been on board the vessel and it was not known how many might have escaped.

Port Harcourt-based radio station, Rhythm FM, was razed by an early morning fire, and at the offices of The Tide newspaper a conflagration gutted the second floor of the building at around the same time.

Quoted in Punch, state Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists Okpaka Dokubo said that local firefighters had hoses that were not long enough to reach the second floor of the Tide building, and that without the intervention of a fire crew from Total, the entire building would have been consumed.

Also, just north of the city, operatives of the Joint Military Task Force set fire to five tankers loaded with illegally refined oil, despite protests from locals who feared the fire might spread to their premises. NEMA mobilised a team of first responders to extinguish it.

These conflagrations come barely a week after the Rivers state government conducted mass burials for over 100 victims of an oil tanker explosion outside the city.

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