At least 109 people were either burnt to death or drowned at Abacheke Kpofire in Egbema community, Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State after an illegal oil refinery site went up in flame.
Our correspondent gathered that the incident happened on Friday night.
It was learnt that that scores of people were burnt in the raging fire but Head of Operations of the National Emergency Management Agency, Mr. Ifeanyi Nnaji, had earlier said from reports he got from the incident, “the casualty figure could not be more than 20.”
Also six vehicles were said to have been burnt.
Giving an update on the incident, Nnaji said so far 109 bodies had been recovered.
He said,” It was more serious than we envisaged . As at this evening, we have counted 109 bodies on the ground while countless others fell into the river and others died inside the refinery.”
State Commissioner for Petroleum Resources, Goodluck Opiah, said that the operator of the illegal refinery, Okenze Onyenwoke, has been identified but currently at large.
He however said that the operator had been declared wanted by the police.
Egbema Youth predident Mr. Okenya Theadus Mario confirmed the incident to our correspondent in Owerri Saturday.
He said that on visiting the scene of the incident, he saw charred remains of the refinery operators and their customers.
He said some of the burnt corpses had decomposed and were buried instantly.
NEMA head of operations said that his men visited the site but, “Could only count about 20 persons dead at the site.”
The Imo State Police Command Public Relations Officer, CSP Mike Abatham, also confirmed the incident, describing it as unfortunate.