The Abia command of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) has confirmed the death of 19 persons, following Friday’s pipeline explosion in two villages in Osisioma local government area of the state.
Benito Eze, state commander of the organisation, 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 2:47am at Umuaduru village in Umueze autonomous community.
He also said three others died in the fire that occurred at 3am in a private residence at Umuimo village in the area.
Narrating the incident, Eze, who said he visited the scene around 4am, described the incident as unfortunate.
He said that the Umuaduru incident happened when some youth in the area where scooping petroleum products from vandalised pipelines.
He said, “I learnt that they were scooping petroleum products when a spark occurred, leading to an explosion that left 16 natives dead.”
Eze added that the fire at Umuimo happened when a woman, identified as a food vendor, got up at about 3am 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.
NAN learnt that 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.
NAN learnt that the fire was later put out by men of the state fire service.