A fire outbreak that engulfed a site of an illegal refinery at the Ibaa community in the Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State has reportedly killed about 35 persons.
It was gathered that the fire broke out late Sunday night when over 45 persons were gathered at the time to transact illegal oil business at the site.
A source from the community which spoke under undisclosed identity confirmed the incident and said that some of his cousins and a wife to one of them died in the incident.
The source was quoted as saying, “My community has been thrown into mourning. My cousins and a wife to one of my cousins went there too for some business but died.”
Also confirming the incident, another community source identified as Emmanuel Daniel, said that the victims went to the illegal oil refinery to trade on the petroleum product when the fire engulfed the site.
According to Daniel, the people from Isiokpo Kingdom in the Ikwerre Local Government Area, Ibaa and Oduoha in Emohua LGA of the state were affected by the fire.
He said “More than 40 people were there at the site. They were there scooping and bagging crude oil when fire caught up with them. The fire came from a refining site that is close to the point where they were bagging the crude.
“Many Isiokpo and Oduoha people and Ibaa people were there. Seven of the people died inside the pit where they were scooping the crude. About 10 burnt to charcoal by the pit. About 30 people died at the site while over 15 were rushed to the hospital. I hear that three of them have died while they were being rushed to the hospital.”
The Chairman of Emuoha Local Government Area, Chidi Lloyd, who also reportedly confirmed the incident, described it as unfortunate that some youths were still engaging in illegal oil refining despite warnings and public advocacy.
Lloyd, who reportedly appealed to traditional rulers in the area to speak out about and discouraged such criminal activities in their communities said, “It is unfortunate that people who have been misguided would lose their lives in that kind of dastardly manner in Ibaa.
“We have said this for the umpteenth time and anybody who is in Rivers State will bear me witness that there cannot be any shortcut to wealth.
“I also have said to traditional rulers that they have a duty. It is not just to be given recognition, that they have a duty to expose criminal elements within their neighbourhood.”
He identified Oblle, Rukuni and Ndele as the other communities where illegal oil refining activities had persisted in the state despite warnings, adding that “This same activity is currently going on in Rukuni, going on in Ndele. It is going on in Obelle and for all these I have raised the alarm to security agencies.
“It is not as if the security agent or agencies are not aware of what is going on. I have always asked a simple question, how do these people transport this crude? There is an army formation in Ibaa. In fact, there they even fenced up the road. So how do these people move?”