According to multiple reports, the deadly blast occurred at the Imo state refinery after a fire broke out at two fuel storage areas where authorities say more than 100 people worked. Imo Commissioner for Petroleum Resources Goodluck Opiah confirmed to ABC News that dozens of people were trapped in the explosion while others attempted to escape by running into nearby wooded areas with burns and died there.
The oil refinery is believed to have been operating illegally, the Associated Press reported. The West African nation has seen billions of dollars in crude oil stolen through the unlawfully-run oil refineries, 30 of which were shut down in the Delta region in two weeks.
Police say a manhunt is currently underway for the owners of the Imo state refinery.
"There are no arrests yet but the two culprits are on the run with police now looking for them," Imo State Information Commissioner Declan Emelumba told ABC News. The names of those suspected to be involved have not been released.
Regarding the victims of the explosion, Emelumba said a mass burial is being planned as many who died in the blast "were burned beyond recognition."
Emergency workers with the state's environmental agencies are reportedly already working to clean up the oil following the blast.
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