No fewer than seven persons were alleged to have died from an explosion that rocked the Nigeria’s 210,000-barrels-per-day capacity refinery in Port Harcourt and the Jetty in Okrika Rivers State, a local government official has disclosed.
“From what I have been told, there are casualties. Seven persons were said to have lost their lives,” Tamuno Williams, chairman of the local government, told journalists.
However, it was further gathered that the explosion was caused by pipeline vandals who hacked into the pipeline to steal the crude oil.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) yesterday refuted reports in the media that the Port Harcourt Refinery in Alesa-Eleme and the nearby Pipelines and Product Marketing Company, PPMC Evacuation/Reception Jetty in Okrika Rivers State were gutted by fire on Sunday.
A statement by the Ohi Alegbe, Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), said Port Harcourt Refinery and the Okrika Jetty are intact.
The NNPC in a Press Release explained that findings from its preliminary investigation revealed that the fire was caused by the activities of oil thieves who hacked into a pipeline somewhere in the creek where they were siphoning petroleum products when the explosion occurred and that the fire did not in any way affect the refinery or the PPMC Jetty in Okrika as widely reported.
“We can confirm that the Port Harcourt Refinery and the Okrika Jetty are intact. The reported fire incident did not in any way affect our operations. While we sympathize with the families of the oil marauders who reportedly lost their lives in the unfortunate inferno, we wish to implore community leaders in Okrika and its environs to appeal to their wards to refrain from product theft and hacking of pipelines,” the NNPC said.
The Corporation affirmed the integrity of its pipelines stating that engineers and technologists from the PPMC Pipelines Right of Way Unit are being dispatched to the scene of the incident for proper technical evaluation.