LAGOS, Nigeria — A truck carrying fuel veered off the road into a ditch, caught fire and exploded in Nigeria's oil-rich delta Thursday, killing at least 95 people who had rushed to the scene to scoop fuel that had spilled, an official said, in a tragic reminder of how little of the country's oil wealth has trickled down to the poor.
At least 50 others were injured in the incident in the southern Niger Delta region, said Rivers State spokeswoman Ibim Semenitari.
Witnesses said charred corpses were lying in the area hours after the explosion, including bodies the size of children. "What did these small ones know about coming to scoop fuel?" wondered Alagoa Morris, coordinator at advocacy group Oil Watch Nigeria.
He said some women wailed at the scene, desperately looking for their relatives. The location of some of the bodies suggested they were trying to run away when fire consumed them, Morris said.
"How can people who have enough to eat scoop oil that belongs to someone else?" said Morris. "It is poverty."
Despite decades as an oil producing region, the majority of those living in the Niger Delta remain desperately poor and mostly without access to proper medical care, education or work. Anger over the situation has driven young people to attack foreign oil firms based there and steal fuel from pipelines.