Nigeria struggles to assess fire casualties

2012-07-13 16:00

Lagos - Nigerian officials on Friday struggled to assess the full loss of life from a petrol tanker fire that killed at least 100, after more victims died over night.

Scores of people who rushed to scoop up fuel after the petrol truck tipped over were burned to death on Thursday.

The rescue agency, local leaders and government officials said the toll from massive fire in the southern, oil-rich Rivers state had risen, but that they were not yet able to offer precise figures

"What I do know is that we have lost more people," the Rivers information commissioner Ibim Semenitari told AFP.

She previously put the toll at more than 100, with 50 injured, some of whom she said could not be saved by treatment at area hospitals.

Emenike Umesi of the National Emergency Management Agency also said the death toll had increased but that his staff were still compiling updated figures.

"What we are handling now are those that are in the hospital. We are trying to get documentation to identify everyone," Umesi said.

Geoffrey Ikogha, a local leader in the Ahoada area, near the oil hub of Port Harcourt where the disaster happened, said the site was still littered with charred motorcycles and other vehicles.

More than 85 victims whose bodies were too badly burned to be transported or identified were buried in a mass grave at the site late Thursday.

The tragedy happened after the tanker swerved to avoid three oncoming vehicles.

Hundreds of locals raced to the scene to collect the spilling oil and ignored a warning from soldiers that a fire could ignite.