Over 90 people are feared dead, following a fire which broke out, Friday night, at an illegal crude oil refining site located inside the Abaezi forest, in Ohaji-Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State.
This is also as the Imo State Government described the incident as ‘a suicidal business they (victims) got themselves into.’
The fire reportedly broke out at around 11pm Friday night, with residents and operators of the illegal refinery scampered for safety.
Speaking while on an assessment tour of the area, Saturday, the Commissioner for Petroleum Resources, Goodluck Opiah, who represented Governor Hope Uzodinma, identified one Okenze Onyewoke, as the owner of the illegal refinery, adding that he has been declared wanted by the state.
The commissioner said the fire consumed 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.
“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 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 the Imo State Government, we condole with the bereaved family. Imo State Government prays God gives the family of those who lost their lives the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.
“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.”