No fewer than one hundred persons, mainly youths, are feared dead after fire engulfed an illegal crude oil refining site at Abaezi forest, in Ohaji-Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State.
Residents said the incident, which happened around 11 pm Friday night, left about one hundred and fifty others seriously injured.
According to the State Commissioner for Petroleum Resources, Goodluck Opiah, who represented Governor Hope Uzidinma of Imo State during his visit to the scene, the fire consumed the lives of so many youths.
He said, “at the moment, I can’t really confirm the number of the deceased because many family members have removed the corpses of so many others.”
The commissioner added that one Okenze Onyewoke, the owner of the illegal refinary, had been declared wanted by the government of Imo State.
“Apart from this calamity, the act has destroyed the acqatic life of the community. Our people before now are predorminantly farmers and fishermen.
“Look around, you’ll find smokes coming from this illegal act. If this is not enough for any person to stop, I think the community is heading for what I can’t describe.
“Most of the people who are engaging in this act are from Rivers, Bayelsa and other neigbouring States and it is sabotage for our people to allow this illegal act to continue.
“I wish to appeal to our youths to desist from making themselves available for this illegal act. This is a sucidal business they got themselves into.
“On behalf of Imo State Government, we condole with the berieved family. Imo State Government pray God gives the family of those who lost their lives the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss,” Opiah said.