More than 100 people who rushed to scoop up fuel after a Nigerian oil tanker tipped over on Thursday were burned to death when the vehicle and spilled oil caught fire.
Children were among those killed, while dozens more were badly burned, despite a warning from troops who arrived at the crash site that a blaze could ignite at any moment.
More than 85 victims were later buried at the scene in a mass grave.
The tanker, driving in southern Rivers State, swerved trying to avoid three oncoming vehicles, including a bus, said Kayode Olagunju, head of the Federal Road Safety Commission.
Shortly after the collision, hundreds of locals in the Ahoada area flocked to the scene to collect the spilling fuel.
Some troops who reached the site before the fire broke out told people to clear off, but many ignored the warning, said Emenike Umesi, an official from the National Emergency Management Agency.
Military personnel “got to the scene before us. They warned people to leave the scene to avoid disaster, but many of them were busy scooping fuel. They disobeyed,” he said.
The state’s information commissioner, Ibim Semenitari, said: “More than 100 people were killed in the inferno ... while around 50 with severe burns have been hospitalized.”
Excavators were brought to the site on a major interstate highway to dig a mass grave for victims, whose bodies were too badly damaged to be transported or recognized.
“They couldn’t be moved,” Semenitari said, putting the number of those already buried at more than 85.
Some of those being treated at the hospital were also burned beyond recognition, said Geoffrey Ikogha, a local chief in Ahoada, near the oil hub of Port Harcourt.
He confirmed that women and children were among those killed.
Given the severity of the burns suffered by some at the hospital, the toll could yet increase, Semenitari said.
“There is a chance that we could lose 10 to 15 more ... medically, they are in a bad state,” she said.