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Koinange: Charred bodies all over the place

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CNN's Africa Correspondent Jeff Koinange.

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On the Scene
Nigeria
Jeff Koinange
Oil and Gas

LAGOS, Nigeria (CNN) -- Up to 200 people were reported killed in an oil pipeline explosion on the outskirts of Nigeria's main city of Lagos on Friday.

Vandals trying to drain fuel from the pipeline may have caused the blast, local officials say. CNN's Daryn Kagan spoke to CNN Africa Correspondent Jeff Koinange, who is in Lagos, for more details.

KOINANGE: We're hearing from police in Nigeria that up to 200 people may have died in that explosion. What happened is vandals -- and this is a frequent occurrence here in Nigeria -- vandals punched a pipeline filled with petrol with the intention of loading it onto barrels and in turn selling it in the city of Lagos. One of them may have either lit a cigarette or a motorcycle may have backed up and a spark flew and it literally incinerated these people.

As we speak, smoke still billows in the area. [It's] a place called Snake Island, about a half-hour boat ride outside of Lagos, and there are charred bodies all over the place. Police commissioners did tell us do not be surprised if that death toll rises because several years ago, in a very similar incident, upwards of a thousand people were killed.

People take advantage of all this fuel that's leaking or that's been punctured to use it for personal consumption or to sell and it's a terrible situation you see it right now -- charred bodies, smoke billowing. Police plan to cordon off the area, but it looks pretty bad.

KAGAN: Explain to us a little bit more, Jeff, about how this works with this pipeline running through the country and how people try to steal the fuel.

KOINANGE: Well, basically what Nigeria does is it exports a little over 2 million barrels of crude oil every single day, but it needs to import refined fuel so it's built pipelines across the country. From the refinery, these pipelines go to the major cities, and most of them are over ground and unprotected, so vandals in the night, they do this very often. They punch a hole into the pipeline. They siphon off the fuel.

Most of the time we wouldn't have -- we wouldn't learn of these incidents up until it becomes this bad or, you know, when someone lights a cigarette and literally incinerates hundreds of people in this case. So it's a very common occurrence, not just in Lagos but in other areas, and the fact that most of these pipelines are over ground, it makes even worse.

KAGAN: This is different than the other news you say we've seen coming out of Nigeria in recent weeks about militants that have been targeting the oil industry.

KOINANGE: That's right. Those militants have been mostly in the south of Nigeria in the crude producing areas where all the multinationals are located. What they do is they attack actual flow stations or oil rigs where the crude oil is, which is very different from what these vandals are doing. They were literally trying to get refined fuel or petrol, if you will, and resell it onto the local market.

KAGAN: Jeff Koinange on the phone live from Nigeria, thank you.

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