The death toll from Friday’s oil pipeline explosion in two Abia State communities in Osisioma Local Government Area has risen to 24, the Commissioner of Police, Mr Anthony Ogbizi, has said.
Mr Benito Eze, the State Commander of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, confirmed to newsmen on Friday that 19 persons, including a nursing mother, died on the spot.
Briefing newsmen in Umuahia on Saturday after visiting the scene of the explosion, Ogbizi said that the number of deaths had risen to 24.
“When we visited the two communities on Saturday, we were informed that 14 people were reported dead at Umuimo village, while 10 died at Umuaduru.
“Some of the victims who sustained various degrees of burns were said to be asleep when the incident occurred.
“They were said to have been taken to nearby hospitals and traditional medicine homes for treatment,” he said.
The police boss said that management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Aba depot blamed the explosion on a spillage from a pipeline that was undergoing maintenance.
He said: “According to the information we obtained from the NNPC depot in Aba, the spillage occurred on a pipeline that conveys product from Aba depot that was undergoing maintenance.”
He said that the incident was being investigated by the command in conjunction with the other security agencies in the state to determine the possible cause.
The explosions occurred at 2.47 am and 3am at the villages respectively both in Umueze Autonomous Community in Osisioma LGA.
The NSCDC boss had said that the Umuaduru incident happened when some youths in the area were scooping petroleum products from a vandalised pipeline.
He further said that Umuimo fire happened when a woman, identified as a food vendor, got up at about 3 am to start cooking for the day’s business.
He said that the petrol stored in the house was ignited by fire set for cooking by the woman.
Eze said that the woman and her husband escaped death but their building was razed down.
Meanwhile, an undisclosed number of victims, who sustained severe burns, were still receiving treatment in different hospitals in the area.