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At Least 50 Killed in Nigerian Pipeline Blaze -TV

Story Filed: Wednesday, March 22, 2000 6:06 PM EST

LAGOS (Reuters) - At least 50 Nigerians were burned alive by petrol they were scavenging from a vandalized pipeline on Wednesday, state television reported.

The TV showed footage of the inferno, with scorched bodies and petrol containers littering the scene in the remote countryside of Abia state in southeast Nigeria.

More than 700 people died in a similar blaze in 1998 during a scramble for spilled petrol in the Niger Delta village of Jesse.

Although Nigeria is Africa's top crude oil producer it suffers chronic petrol shortages because of poorly maintained domestic refineries. Long lines of cars are common at petrol stations, leading to a thriving black market in petroleum products.

The authorities say it is increasingly common for local people to rupture a pipeline that passes through their area and collect the spilled fuel.

At Jesse in October 1998, about 2,000 people were killed or injured in the flames. It took almost a week to put out the fire.

It was not immediately clear what sparked Wednesday's inferno in Abia.

Fire crews rushed in from the nearby Abia state capital, Umuaihia, and the commercial city of Aba, but fire officials told the television they were unable to put out the blaze before it caused extensive damage.

Copyright ) 2000 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved


-- (, March 22, 2000

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