At least 30 people were killed when a petrol pipeline caught fire and exploded in southeast Nigeria after a raid by suspected oil thieves, a survivor and officials said on Saturday.

The incident happened in the town of Aba on Friday when vandals burst the pipeline operated by the state-run Pipeline and Product Marketing Company.

“The incident occurred at about 1:30 am. Those burnt are more than 30 with many others sustaining injuries,” said Nnamdi Tochukwu, a survivor on his hospital bed in nearby Asaba.

A security officer, who did not want to be identified, confirmed the death toll.

“Over 30 bodies were burnt at the scene before the arrival of security operatives while many others are currently receiving medical attention at various hospitals within and outside the town,” the officer said.

The spokesman for Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said the victims were vandals attempting to scoop petrol from the pipeline.

“I can’t give the exact number of casualties for now, but the explosion was caused as a result of oil thieves who had hacked the line to intercept the flow of petrol from the Port Harcourt refinery to Aba,” Ndu Ughamadu told AFP.

He said an investigation was under way.

Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer and exporter, runs a network of pipelines that transport crude and petrol across the vast nation.

Hundreds of lives have been lost in recent years due to oil vandals bursting pipelines to steal petrol, sometime resulting in explosions.

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