Twelve persons were killed on Friday in a pipeline explosion along the Tebidaba-Azuzuama trunk line belonging to Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) in Azuzuama Community of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, as sea pirates also abduct two passengers along the Kula waterways of Brass Local Government.
The explosion, according to community sources, occurred during a Joint Investigation Visit (JIV) for the official clamping of a spillage site along the route of the Agip pipeline and all the victims of the explosion were burnt beyond recognition.
The JIV team is made up officials from Ministry of Environment, the Department of Petroleum Resources, NAOC, the representative of the Azuzuama Community and NOSDRA.
Also, two soldiers attached to the team for security, may have also been killed in the explosion.
A former Vice Chairman of the Azuzuama Community Development Committee, Comrade Dennis Dumde, confirmed the recovery of 12 dead bodies from the explosion site Thursday night.
According to him, though the source of the fire is not known, “the identity of the victims cannot be ascertained. They were burnt beyond recognition. “
Also confirming the incident, the State Coordinator of the Group known as Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Comrade Morris Alagoa said a team of Environment Ministry officials has been deployed to the community by the State Commissioner, Inuro Wills.
The incident, which occurred at about 4pm on Thursday, threw the community into mourning.
A source, identified as Steve, said the explosion occurred while a Swamp Boogie, hired to clear the spillage site hit the pipeline and ignited a fire that caught members of the JIV team unawares, “We heard a loud bang. And saw thick smoke coming from Brown Bush, the location of the ruptured pipe.
“Many of the villagers rushed to the site but the fire ball was huge and could not rescue anyone. At about 8pm, a rescue team was raised by the villagers and searched the scene. Four bodies were recovered on Thursday night.
“Another search Friday morning recovered six more burnt bodies. Two persons were rescued. And they are at Okolobiri Teaching Hospital. We cannot identify them and be able to know the soldier from the officials. It is sad.”
Attempts to speak with State Commissioner for Enviroment Inuro Wills, failed as his line was busy. But a Ministry official said on condition of anonymity that the State Governor Seriake Dickson have been informed about the development.
The spokesman of the State Police Command Astimin Butswat, confirmed the development and said he is expecting full brief from the Marine Component of the Police Command, “the Command can confirm only Ten persons were found dead.”
Meanwhile, a passenger boat, christened MV Tari, was conveying passengers from Port Harcourt in Rivers State to Okpoama community in Bayelsa State.
The incident, which occurred at about 7pm on Thursday, led to the death of one of the passengers identified as Godspower Amuna.
The Boat Manager, Emma Alabo and Wodu Udoka were however kidnapped by the Pirates.
Sources confirmed that other passengers sustained various degrees of injuries and bullet wounds.
Confirming the incident, the second Boat Manager Ebitimi Tekenah, said the pirates, numbering seven, came in two speed boats, “They started shooting at us. This led to the death of one passenger. Some others including Ikonigha Joseph, Numonyo Amade sustained bullet wounds.”
One other passenger confirmed that Numonyo Amade has been operated upon at the Okpoama Medical centre and bullet extracted from his abdomen. And another female passenger had bullet removed from her leg.”
Ebitimi, who offered prayers to God for surviving the attack, said, “I was sleeping when I heard the shooting. I immediately went to the front to find out. Some gunmen descended on me with bottle and shattered my head. They forced me into one of the speed boats.
“It was when I told them that I was the boat engineer, that they dropped me off. They told me to start the boat and take the wounded home for treatment.”