Thu, Dec 28, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Hunt goes on for Nigerian blaze victims

SCOUTING FOR VICTIMS The UN said it was ready to provide assistance to Nigeria, as the Red Cross remained concerned that many injured victims may still be hiding


Nigerian health officials sprayed chemicals yesterday to disinfect the site of the oil pipeline explosion that left at least 200 people dead, according to the Nigerian Red Cross, even as volunteers searched for more victims.

The charred bodies of the victims of Tuesday's pipeline fire at Abule-Egba in the north of Nigeria's main city Lagos have been removed, but pieces of human flesh still littered the area, a correspondent at the scene reported early yesterday.

A senior local government health official said that fumigation work at the site began on Tuesday night.

"Our concern is to prevent an outbreak of disease. We are worried about the tragic health implications of allowing human parts to decay and cause disease in the place," Ayo Alaba-George said.

"The exercise will continue this morning until the entire neighborhood is cleared of the stench," he said.

The Nigerian Red Cross said it was still concerned that many people with serious burn wounds might be in hiding in the area where the blaze happened.

"We are still sending out volunteers to scout around and take any wounded people in hiding to hospital", Umar Mairiga, head of disaster management with the Nigerian national Red Cross told reporters.

In pipeline blazes where people get burned illegally scooping fuel, many go into hiding for fear of prosecution, rather than seeking medical attention.

"We are still maintaining the casualty figure of over 200 dead," Mairiga said.

He said the Red Cross was still compiling figures for the number of those who survived with severe burns. Casualty figures given on Tuesday for the wounded ranged from 60 to 300.

"We have sent volunteers out to all the hospitals and private clinics where the wounded were sent" to make a count, he said.

Residents said the pipeline was vandalized by thieves stealing fuel on a large scale. The fire, they said, started later in the morning, some time around 8am when local residents arrived with jerrycans to help themselves to small quantities of fuel.

Meanwhile, the UN said on Tuesday it was ready to provide assistance to Nigeria in the wake of the deadly explosion.

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said departing UN chief Kofi Annan, who is to step down on Sunday, is "deeply saddened at the deaths of hundreds of people as a result of the explosion of a fuel pipeline in Adule Egba district of Lagos, Nigeria."

In a statement, Dujarric said the UN stood "ready to assist in this endeavor, and to help in assessing current gaps in risk mapping and disaster response in the region."

Annan called for "a review of the country's fuel supply management, as well as a thorough regional review of risks that could lead to ... disasters in West Africa."

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