INTERNATIONAL

100 die in pipeline blast

LAGOS (Nigeria) june 21. More than 100 villagers scavenging gasoline from a vandalised pipeline were killed when the gushing fuel exploded in rural south-eastern Nigeria, Red Cross officials and witnesses said on Saturday.

It was not immediately clear what touched off the blast late Thursday on an excavated length of pipe 50 km north of the city of Umuahia.

The national This Day newspaper cited witnesses as saying it may have been caused by a spark from a motorcycle used by one of the victims.

Emmanuel Ijewere, president of the Nigerian Red Cross, confirmed 105 people were killed and said more deaths were likely as rescue crews continued to collect bodies and interview survivors, including an unknown number of wounded languishing in homes and hospitals with ``third degree burns''.

ThisDay put the casualties at about 100.

Ndu Ughamadu, spokesman of the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, confirmed the pipeline had been ruptured by `vandals,' adding it was still unclear how many people had been killed.

Witnesses speaking on condition of anonymity said villagers had been scooping fuel from the pipeline for six weeks since it was first ruptured in early May. The residents said authorities had continued to pump fuel through the line despite being informed of the breakage.

AP

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