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Nine people were killed and three others remain in critical condition after a huge Christmas Eve blast at an industrial gas plant in southeast Nigeria, officials said on Sunday.

A colossal inferno was triggered around noon on Thursday, engulfing the city of Nnewi in clouds of billowing black smoke and leaving some of the victims charred beyond recognition.

A 68-year-old woman died on Saturday morning "due to excessive inhalation of toxic fumes, bringing the death total to nine," National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) spokesperson James Eze told AFP.

Three other people, including a seven-month pregnant woman, remain in hospital receiving treatment.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari had said in a press statement Friday that "tens" of people had died in the catastrophic explosion, but presidency spokesman Garba Shehu could not confirm that number.

"I am not in a position to say," Shehu said to AFP.

Explosions are common in oil-rich Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, where fuel is distributed with poorly maintained trucks on potholed roads.

Earlier in December, a tanker loaded with fuel exploded in a crowded Lagos neighbourhood, setting off a fire that injured several residents and decimated nearby vehicles and houses.

Christmas Eve

The blast and ensuing inferno occurred as residents gathered to buy cooking gas, said Chume Ibeabuchi, who oversees records at the local Red Cross.

It's common for residents to take their cooking gas cylinders for refilling -- especially in preparation for holiday festivities.

"The truck caught fire and exploded while offloading gas which engulfed the whole factory and surrounding buildings," said Godwin Ibe, a resident of Nnewi.

Cause of blast unclear

Ibeabuchi said he organized a Red Cross response team that arrived hours later and found police, military and fire officials at the scene.

While the exact cause of the blast is unclear, it appears someone filling up on gas did not follow the proper procedure, he said.

Nnewi is a predominantly Christian city about 280 miles east of Lagos.

Source: www.news24.com

Tag(s) : #Oil and Gas News
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