No fewer than 12 persons were killed in an explosion which occurred on Thursday along the Tebidaba-Azuzuama trunkline operated by the Nigerian Agip Oil Company in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
Sources said the victims included representatives of Agip, National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Bayelsa State Ministry of Environment, security personnel and the host community.
They were said to be carrying out a Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) on a previous oil spill incident on the facility when the explosion occurred and resulted in a huge fire.
It was gathered that the ruptured point on the pipeline was being clamped by members of the JIV team, using welding machines and other clamping tools when it sparked off an explosion.
Ten persons were said to have been burnt beyond recognition in the inferno while two gave up the ghost shortly after.
Three others were said to have survived the fire incident at the company’s pipeline with varying degrees of injury. Two of them were rushed to the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital, Okolobiri, near Yenagoa, the state capital, while the other was taken to another unnamed health facility.
“Because the fire was big, it was difficulty for anybody to go into the fire and rescue them”, a source that pleaded anonymity said.
“You know, when clamping the ruptured point on a pipeline they use welding machine and other clamping tools to soda the hole on the pipeline”, the source added.
The state Commissioner for Environment, Inuro Wills, confirmed the incident and said that a representative of the ministry on the JIV team was missing.
However, an Eni spokesperson, Filipo Cotalini , the parent company of NAOC, said in a statement via email that the cause of the explosion was being investigated.
“Eni informs that an explosion occurred yesterday, 9 July late afternoon, at the site of the repair works of the Tebidaba-Clough Creek line, an oil pipeline in Nigeria’s onshore Niger Delta, previously damaged by acts of sabotage.
“The explosion resulted in the death of 12 members of the maintenance team of a local company of services, with 3 others being injured.
“The causes of the incident are still under investigation by both Eni and the local authorities.
“The company expresses its deepest condolences to the families involved in this tragic accident,” the company said.
Police Public Relations Officer, Bayelsa Command, Asinim Butswat, said the police have received report on the incident but that details were sketchy.