At least 12 persons have been reported killed in a pipeline explosion which occurred on an Agip oil field in Azuzuama, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, Bayelsa State. Three others were injured in the explosion.
The victims were said to be part of team of the Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment, the Department of Petroleum Resources, the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), the representative of the Azuzuama Community, the NOSDRA and security officials on a Joint Investigation and Verification (JIV) exercise set up to probe an oil spillage on the Tebidaba/Azuzuama trunk line of the company when the accident occurred.
Though no one could confirm the identity of the victims, it was gathered that two soldiers attached to the team were also killed in the explosion. According to a statement issued by an Eni Spokesman Mr Filipo Cotalini , the parent company of NAOC, the cause of the explosion was being investigated.
"Eni informs that an explosion occurred yesterday, 9 July late afternoon, at the site of the repair works of the Tebidaba-Clough Creek line, an oil pipeline in Nigeria's onshore Niger Delta, previously damaged by acts of sabotage.
"The explosion resulted in the death of 12 members of the maintenance team of a local company of services, with 3 others being injured.
"The causes of the incident are still under investigation by both Eni and the local authorities.
"The company expresses its deepest condolences to the families involved in this tragic accident," the firm stated.
A source in Bayelsa Ministry of Environment confirmed that its staff on the visit was safe and unhurt.
A former Vice Chairman of the Azuzuama Community Development Committee , Comrade Dennis Dumde confirmed the recovery of 12 bodies from the explosion site between Thursday night and Friday morning.
According to him, though the source of the fire is not known, "The identity of the victim can not be ascertained. They were burnt beyond recognition."
Also confirming the incident, the State Coordinator of the Group known as Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Comrade Morris Alagoa said a team of Environment Ministry officials had been deployed to the community by the State Commissioner, Inuro Wills.
The incident occurred at about 4pm on Thursday.
Attempts to speak with State Commissioner for Environment, Wills, failed as his line was busy. But a Ministry official said that the State Governor Hon. Seriake Dickson had been informed about the development.
The spokesman of the State Police Command, Astimin Butswat confirmed the development and added that he was expecting full brief from the Marine Component of the Police Command.