At least 45 people were killed and more than 100 injured in central Nigeria when a petrol tanker crashed and then exploded as people gathered fuel, emergency services said on Tuesday.
The truck overturned near shops while travelling through the village of Ahumbe in Benue state on Monday.
Local residents rushed to the scene and collected leaking gasoline for over an hour before the fuel caught fire, causing a blast that tore through the surrounding area.
“We have recovered 45 corpses of the dead while 101 others sustained serious fire burns,” Benue state Federal Road Safety Commission Sector Commander Aliyu Baba told AFP.
“From the look of things and considering their condition, many of them might not survive.”
Baba said a pregnant woman and at least two children were among the dead and two firefighters sustained serious burns.
He said the blaze was sparked when a bus laden with passengers drove past the scene and its exhaust pipe scraped along the ground, causing sparks to fly.
“Sixteen of the passengers in the vehicle, including the two children and the pregnant woman, were instantly burnt to death,” Baba said.
Police and emergency services crews were working to clear the tanker’s charred hulk from the road, an AFP reporter at the scene witnessed.
At least one building was gutted in the explosion.
Locals spoke of their shock.
“I lost a brother and two others are seriously burnt and in the hospital. They were trapped in the fire when the truck exploded for a second time,” resident Ade Derfer told AFP.
At the Bishop Murray hospital in the state capital Makurdi, patients with serious burns were recovering.
Survivor Ochuole Imaje said she had been on the ill-fated bus.
“We warned our driver to park but he went ahead and in a bid to pass the spilling fuel an explosion occurred and we were trapped in the fire and fought for our lives,” she told AFP.
“I managed to escape but many others died. I cannot tell how I got here to the hospital.”
Earlier, a spokesperson for the local council said over 64 people were killed in the incident. The police has not given an official toll.
Petrol tanker and pipeline blasts are common in Nigeria, where despite the country’s multibillion-dollar oil and gas industry, most people live in poverty.
Fires and explosions often occur as people try to siphon fuel from pipelines or following accidents involving fuel tankers on badly-maintained roads.
In January, at least eight people were killed in Odukpani, in the southeastern state of Cross River, in a similar incident.
In July 2012, more than 100 people were killed and some 50 others injured in the southern state of Rivers.