By Camillus Eboh
ABUJA (Reuters) – Sixty people were killed after a fire broke out on Friday on an oil pipeline in the southeast of Nigeria, a spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said on Monday, up from the tally of 16 dead given by officials three days earlier.
The state oil company on Friday said pumping on the System 2E pipeline network had been halted.
“We will resume the pumping of products very soon,” NNPC spokesman Ndu Ughamadu told Reuters on Monday. “We had put out the fire. We are now pumping water in the pipeline to detect other possible areas of leakages.”
The System 2E pipeline is a key network that supplies imported gasoline and output from the Port Harcourt refineries to much of the southeast and north of the country. The two refining plants at Port Harcourt operate far below their 210,000 barrels per day capacity.
In an emailed statement, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said it had been prevented from pumping fuel to the southeastern Enugu Depot “which has remained underutilised despite its recent rehabilitation by the NNPC”.
Many oil spills in the southern oil production heartland of Africa’s biggest crude producer are caused by theft and pipeline sabotage. The methods used to steal the oil often result in accidents that cause fires.
The state oil company , which on Friday gave a death toll of 16, said the fire had been caused by pipeline vandals who breached the pipeline in Ososioma near the southeastern city of Aba.
(Additional reporting and writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Mark Potter)