From: Katharine Houreld, Associated Press
Published December 28, 2006 12:00 AM

Red Cross Official: Pipeline Leak in Lagos Neighborhood

LAGOS, Nigeria — Fuel was leaking from a pipeline in a poor Lagos neighborhood Thursday, but the Red Cross said its earlier report of an explosion was mistaken.

A Nigerian Red Cross official, Ige Oladimeji, said once officials got to the site in a northern neighborhood of Nigeria's largest city, they found there was no explosion or fire. Witnesses said a cooking fire in the same neighborhood may have led to the confusion.

Tuesday, a blast hit a pipeline as scavengers collected fuel spilling from the conduit, leaving 265 people dead. Nigeria is Africa's leading oil producer, but mismanagement and corruption has hit the refining sector, causing chronic fuel shortages.

Tapping into the pipes that often traverse populated areas is a common practice in Nigeria, where black-market fuel sells for more than ten times the filling-station price.

In a season of both Christian and Muslim holidays, petrol has been particularly scarce as travelers head out of cities, leading to hours-long lines at gasoline stations across Lagos.

Earlier this year, 150 people died in a similar incident and a 1998 pipeline fire killed 1,500.

Many Nigerians feel they have gained little from decades of oil production in their country, saying gas flaring and oil spills have polluted lands while they remain poor as only a tiny elite grows rich.

Source: Associated Press

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