(AP) - At least 200 people were killed Tuesday when a gasoline pipeline exploded in Nigeria's biggest city of Lagos, a Red Cross official said. The death toll was expected to rise.
Ige Oladimeji, a senior official for the Nigerian Red Cross, said his workers had documented "over 200 and still counting."
"We can only recognize them through the skulls, the bodies are scattered over the ground," he said. Workers "can't get close enough because the fire is still burning."
Witnesses said the pipeline ruptured shortly after midnight and that people had been collecting leaking fuel in plastic cans for hours before the explosion. It wasn't clear what caused the initial rupture in the pipeline or the later explosion, reports Trend.
Hundreds of bodies could be seen jumbled and fused together in the raging flames at the blast site. Intense heat kept rescue workers back as smoke billowed over the heavily populated Adule Egba neighborhood.
The blast shook the neighborhood after dawn, Nigerian Red Cross spokesman Umar Mairiga said. He said 16 bodies had been taken to the morgue, but raging fires were hindering further recovery. Many people had been injured, he said.
Nigerians often tap into pipelines carrying refined fuel, scooping up the raw product in buckets or plastic bags. Spilled fuel spreading in pools sometimes ignites, immolating people nearby.
In May, more than 150 people died in a similar explosion in Lagos.
Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer, but corruption, poor management and limited refining capacity often leave the country short of fuel for vehicles and stoves.
Shortages in recent days have prompted hours-long lines at Lagos filling stations.