Over 100 persons feared dead at illegal bunkering site in Imo
This ugly incident, which happened in the early hours of Sunday, also had about one hundred and fifty others sustained serious degrees of burns, the Guardian gathered.
During his visit to the scene, the state governor, Hope Uzodimma, represented by the state Commissioner for Petroleum Resources, Goodluck Opiah, expressed shock over the incident and condemned the illegal activity leading to the deaths.
Opiah who hailed from the area, also disclosed that the owner of the illegal refinery, Okenze Onyewoke had been declared wanted by the government of Imo State.
“I can’t really confirm the number of the deceased because many family members have removed the corpses of so many others,” Opiah 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.
He continued, “most of the people who are engaging in this act are from Rivers, Bayelsa and other neighbouring states and it is sabotage for our people to allow this illegal activity 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,” he added.
Speaking to newsmen, an eyewitness, one Mr Eze Ikedi said, “around 11 pm last night, the residents of the area woke up to see the huge flame on the Abaezi forest.
“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.”
“The fire covered the whole bush. We saw the people that were inside, many people were trapped inside the fire. Some who managed to come outside later died because many of them were even rejected by the village health centre when we rushed them there.”