Scores Feared Killed, Burnt At Imo Illegal Refinery Inferno

Michael Chukwuebuka, Reporting

Scores of youths are feared roasted and injured as fire engulfed an illegal oil refining site at Abaezi forest in Ohaji-Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State.

An eyewitness, Mr Eze Ikedi, told that journalists that the incident happened around 11:00p.m Friday night.

He said that residents of the area woke up to see the huge flame on the Abaezi forest.

“The fire was even entering the bush; we saw the people that were inside, no one was seen coming out.

“People were also scared going close the place, but later when people got there, they found out it was over hundred persons that were burnt and one hundred and fifty others who sustained serious burns were rushed into the villages for treatment,” he noted.

According to him, many of the victims were rejected by the village Health care centre as there were few medical personnel available.

Confirming the incident, the Commissioner for Petroleum Resources, Goodluck Opiah,
who represented Governor Hope Uzidinma during a visit to the site, said the fire had affected the lives of so many youths.

“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,” mooted.

He identified one Okenze Onyewoke as the alleged owner of the illegal refinery, and had been declared wanted by the government of Imo State.

“Apart from this calamity, the act has destroyed the acquatic life of the community.

“Our people, before now, are predominantly farmers and fishermen.

“Look around, you’ll find smoke 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 suicidal business they got themselves into.

“On behalf of Imo State government, we condole with the bereaved family.

“Imo State government prays God give the family of those who lost their lives the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss,” he lamented.

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