Nigeria-DR Congo: Strange tale of simultaneous oil disasters

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Africa’s natural resources have ofttimes been described as a curse on its people for several reasons. One of such reasons is the weekend tragedy that unfolded in two distant regions. A tanker truck carrying fuel exploded after skidding off the road, killing at least 13 people and injuring nine others in Northern Nigeria on Friday, and a fuel tanker turned over and exploded into flames in eastern Congo overnight, killing at least 220 villagers and hurting more than 100.

While the outcomes are devastating, the lure for quick, or easy wealth, that otherwise can hardly be found, has continued to stir these rather unfortunate episodes in most oil producing African countries.

In Eastern Congo when the truck which was transporting fuel overturned at high speed, “people came out and tried to siphon the contents of the tanker,” said Madnodje Mounoubai, a spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission, which has rushed troops to help evacuate survivors.

The desperation of poverty, the poor administration of resource wealth, and the audacity of scarcity continues to draw the poor masses into an exploding truck; to their detriment or death.

“A fire started, and the people trying to siphon the fuel were killed or injured. Right now, we are talking about 220 dead and 111 wounded, but this is not the final toll. This is a very fluid situation,” Mounoubai told The Associated Press.

As far as desperation for quick wealth or oil calamities is concerned, Nigeria may very well be named a leader. In northern Nigeria, a truck loaded with 33,000 liters of petrol from Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos lost control on a bend in the northern city of Gombe. The truck tipped on its side and spilt fuel which burst in flames, according to a statement by the head of Gombe state Federal Road Safety (FRSC) Felix Osakwe.

The demise in DR Congo and Nigeria in the weekend is usually the story of Africa’s destitute in oil producing nations. Across the continent the desperate poor often rush to damaged oil trucks leaking with fuel; to siphon some fuel with buckets, gallons and plastic jugs, often aware of the danger of doing so, but clouded with the pinch of poverty.

Nigeria oil deaths

According to Nigeria pipeline explosion time line, the country’s oil history is strewn with situation where thousands have died as crowd’s siphoned fuel illegally from ruptured or pierced oil pipelines that subsequently exploded.

October 17, 1998 – A pipeline carrying gasoline from the Warri Refinery to Kaduna got ruptured. It later explodes with fire igniting the people who came to spoon oil, killing about 1, 078 people in Jesse town, Delta State.

July 11, 2000 – A pipeline explodes, killing about 250 villagers, with fires burning out of control near the town of Jesse. Six days later, at least 100 villagers die when a ruptured pipeline explodes in the town of Warri. A similar explosion nearly two years ago killed over 1, 000 people in Jesse town.

November 30, 2000 – A leaking oil products pipeline catches fire at a beachhead near the fishing village of Ebute near Lagos, killing at least 60 people.

June 19, 2003 – An oil pipeline punctured by thieves explodes north of the Abia state capital Umuahia, killing 125 villagers.

September 17, 2004 – Dozens of people are killed in a pipeline explosion in the commercial capital Lagos after thieves tried to siphon petrol belonging to state oil company NNPC.

May 12, 2006 – A pipeline explosion in the fishing village of Ilado killing more than 250 people.

December 26, 2006 – Several hundred people are burned alive when fuel from a vandalized pipeline explodes in the Abule Egba district of Lagos. Nigerian Red Cross says 269 bodies retrieved.

October 12, 2007 – The fishing and farming community of Otor-Edo in Ughelli-South Local Government Area of Delta State escaped being roasted alive, when the trunk line of the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) 10-inch Utorogun gas plant exploded. Four people were injured, while no one feared dead. They were saved by the high tide and overflow of water from the adjoining river that night.

December 26, 2007 – At least 45 people burned to death on the outskirts of Lagos when fuel they are siphoning from a buried pipeline catches fire.

May 15, 2008 – At least 100 people killed and scores injured when fuel from a pipeline ruptured by an earth-mover explodes in Ijegun village in the Alimosho district of Lagos.

June 13, 2009 – A pipeline explosion in the fishing and farming village of Ilado. Unknown number of people are feared dead.

July 2, 2010- “We recorded 13 deaths in the accident while nine people sustained serious burns. The fire spread and destroyed about 40 houses, five cars and 89 motorcycles,” the head of Gombe state Federal Road Safety told AP.

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