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At least 95 killed in Nigerian tanker explosion

July 12, 2012 | 10:09 am

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- At least 95 people were burned to death in Nigeria's oil-rich Rivers State when a petrol tanker that overturned and spilled fuel on a highway exploded, officials said.

The blast happened as dozens of people gathered around the crashed tanker, trying to recover the gasoline leaking into containers, a spokesman for the Federal Road Safety Commission, Kayode Olagunju, told local media.

Nigeria has experienced many similar catastrophes in the past, including explosions at fuel pipelines where people try to siphon off fuel.

The Federal Road Safety Commission reported that 95 people died and 18 were injured. However, Nigeria's Vanguard newspaper quoted a local witness who said he counted 98 bodies. Children and pregnant women were among the dead, the newspaper reported.

Rivers State is in the Niger Delta, the main oil producing region of Nigeria.

The accident occurred when the tanker driver lost control and his vehicle ran off the road. Other vehicles were involved, according to the road commission.

"Early this morning a tanker loaded with petrol fell in Okogbe and people trooped to the scene, obviously to scoop the spilled fuel, and suddenly there was fire resulting in casualties," news agencies quoted a police spokesman in Rivers State, Ben Ugwuegbulam, as saying.

Dozens of motorcycles were burned by the explosion and aftermath, some belonging to motorcycle riders trying to take gasoline from the scene. It's not known what sparked the blast.

Truck accidents on Nigeria's dilapidated highways are common.

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--Robyn Dixon

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