Friday’s pipeline explosion in two villages in Osisioma local government area in Abia state left no fewer than nineteen people dead.
This was confirmed by the Abia command of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
The state commander of the organisation, Benito Eze, confirmed the number of casualties to reporters in Umuahia, the state capital.
Eze said 16 persons, including one woman, died in the explosion that occurred around 2:47 am at Umuaduru village in Umueze autonomous community.
The state commander also said three others died in the fire that occurred at 3 am in a private residence at Umuimo village in the area.
Narrating the incident, Eze, who said he visited the scene around 4 am, described the incident as unfortunate.
Eze said the Umuaduru incident happened when some youth in the area where scooping petroleum products from vandalised pipelines.
His words: “I learnt that they were scooping petroleum products when a spark occurred, leading to an explosion that left 16 natives dead.”
He added that the fire at Umuimo happened when a woman, identified as a food vendor, got up at about 3 am to start cooking for the day’s business.
“I gathered that the family stored petrol in the house and that it caught fire when the woman wanted to set up fire for cooking,” he said.
“The fire razed down the whole house but the woman and her husband did not die but managed to escape with burns.”
The civil defence official said the couple had been taken to a hospital for medical attention.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria, three military personnel were among the deceased.
Eze, however, declined confirmation, saying that “investigations are still ongoing to ascertain whether they were among or not.”
He said the command had deployed its personnel to cordon off the scene to forestall more casualties.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the fire was later put out by men of the state fire service.