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Women and Children Among Scores Killed in an Explosion at an Illegal Oil Refinery in Nigeria

“The fire occurred in an illegal bunkering site situated at the boundary between Rivers State and Imo State,” the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) said in a statement sent to CNN on Sunday. It said the fire had led “to the death of men, women and children in the hundreds,” adding that the remains of some victims “were burnt beyond recognition.” According to local media reports, emergency response teams have counted 110 bodies, while others remain missing. Imo state officials said the suspected owner of the illegal refinery was wanted by police. The owner will be prosecuted, said state commissioner for petroleum sources Goodluck Opiah. According to Opiah, the blast also destroyed marine life in the surrounding area, which is predominantly used by farmers and fishermen. The perpetrators were from neighbouring states in the region, he said, calling for those involved to be treated as “economic saboteurs”. The government has deployed the military to raid and destroy illegal refineries in the Niger delta as part of measures to stop stealing. Oil theft and artisanal refining of crude oil is a common practice in the country’s delta region. The practice involves boiling crude oil to extract fuel which contributes to the pollution in the region. Government figures released last year and reported on by Nigerian media found that more than 400,000 barrels of crude oil are being lost to theft each day.