Multiple fatalities are being reported following a grisly industrial gas tank explosion in southern Nigeria. The blast occurred on Christmas Eve at Intercorp Oil Unlimited as residents in Nnewi, a predominately Christian city, gathered to purchase cooking gas, which is commonly carried in cylinders out of convenience during preparation for holiday festivities.
Some media outlets released statements that included high death tolls, but a Red Cross official, Chume Ibeabuchi, has only confirmed four deaths and four injured individuals, all of which weretransported to Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital with severe burns, so far. Factory workers are believed to be among the fatalities. The bodies that were recovered from the scene of the explosion were charred beyond recognition.
In one official witness account, Nnewi resident Godwin Ibe explained that “a truck caught fire and exploded while offloading gas which engulfed the whole factory and surrounding buildings.”
Other witnesses have stated that factory workers were trapped after the blast occurred and unable to escape. This is likely responsible for the media’s confusion in regard to the overall death toll.
Police, military, and fire officials were already on the scene when the Red Cross response team organized by Ibeauchi arrived a couple hours later. The exact cause of the blast is unknown, but Ibeauchi states that it appears whoever had been filling up on gas prior to the blast had not been following proper procedure.