Nigeria: Pipeline Explosion - Corpses, Pollution Threaten Rivers Community

Residents of Kom kom community in Oyigbo Local Government Area of Rivers State where a petrol pipeline explosion killed more than 40 persons two weeks ago have raised alarm over decomposing bodies, stench and other organisms in the polluted site that are yet to be evacuated.

The over 40 persons lost their lives as they scooped fuel when a petrol pipeline belonging to the Petroleum Product Marketing Company (PPMC) exploded.

It was gathered that the explosion was caused by vandals who were said to have connected a 2' pipe to a valve that distributes petrol from PPMC depot in Port Harcourt to Abia and Enugu states.

A source from the community who doesn't want to be named said the suspected vandals connected the pipe from a valve to an inbuilt storage tank in their camp from where they siphoned product.

He said the pipe ruptured and caused leakage from the major pipeline valve and spilled its contents into the environment.

"When the illegal connection ruptured there was a serious leakage which spilled fuel in the entire environment. Immediately this occurred hundreds of residents rushed to the area where the fuel had spilled to scoop the product," he said.

"The crowd was heavy and the PPMC staff that had come to repair the damage pipe had to retreat. One of the Mobile Police officers that was with them fired warning shots to scare people away, an action that ignited the explosion killing over 40 persons in the incident," he stated.

Another resident of the area, Akpan Okon, said many decomposing bodies that were trapped inside the swamp where the explosion occurred were yet to be evacuated thereby causing environmental pollution.

"We the residents of this area are at danger of contracting disease because of the stench that comes from the polluted site. Foul odour is coming from the swamp where the incident occurred. I believe that it is coming from the decomposing bodies that are trapped inside the swamp which are yet to be evacuated," he said.

"When the incident occurred, many of the victims ran inside the bush and many of them died before help could come their way. When the rescue team came they were able to evacuate as many corpses as they could find. But there are others that are yet to be evacuated which I believe are responsible for the stench coming from the area," he noted.

He called on the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSRDA) and other relevant authorities to clean up the site and decontaminate the entire environment.

Similarly, Pricilla Mark said residents are inhaling contaminated air as a result of the stench from the site.

"When an incident like this occurs what is expected of relevant environmental agencies is to clean up and decontaminate the affected area. However since this incident occurred about two weeks ago, nothing has been done to clean up the area.

"The site is yet to be decontaminated. You can imagine the stench that is coming out from this place and that is what we inhale on a daily basis. We want government to help us by cleaning up and decontaminating the affected areas," he said.

Another resident Chukeu Madu called on relevant environmental agencies to come to their aid and clean up the area.

While noting that they have informed PPMC and other relevant regulatory agencies "about what we are passing through and nothing has happened", he said NOSDRA team visited the place and promised to decontaminate the area but nothing has been done.

Meanwhile, effort to speak with the PPMC office in Port Harcourt about the incident was not successful.

A source from the company who pleaded anonymity, however, said efforts are on to decontaminate the polluted area.

The Head of NOSDRA in Port Harcourt, Cyrus Nkanwang, confirmed to a radio station in Port Harcourt shortly affect the investigative bureau visited the affected area that the explosion was caused by oil thieves who installed a valve to divert petrol to their tank farmand the explosion triggered by a gun shot.

"At the end of investigation we discovered that about 15,900 litres of crude oil was spilled into the environment and the impact is about 20.75 hectares of land,"

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