At least hundreds persons are feared dead as fire engulfed an illegal crude oil refining site at Abaezi forest, in Ohaji-Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State.
Daily Post gathered that about one hundred and fifty others sustained serious degrees of burns.
Speaking on the ugly development, the State Commissioner for Petroleum Resources, Goodluck Opiah, who represented Governor Hope Uzidinma of Imo State during his visit to the scene, said 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.”
Opiah said Okenze Onyewoke, the owner of the illegal refinery, had been declared wanted by the government of Imo State.
He said, “apart from this calamity, the act has destroyed the aquatic life of the community. Our people before now are predominantly 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 suicidal business they got themselves into.
“On behalf of Imo State Government, we condole with the bereaved family. Imo State Government pray God gives the family of those who lost their lives the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.”
An eyewitness, one Mr Eze Ikedi told Daily Post correspondent who visited the scene that the incident happened around 11 pm last 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,” Ikedi said.
He added that, “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 further said many of them were rejected by the village health center.