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Lagos pipeline blast site burns through the night

The shell of the burnt-out excavator continued to belch out flames and acrid black smoke over the site where around 100 people lost there lives in an explosion.

world Updated: May 16, 2008 09:46 IST

Silhouetted against the night sky the shell of the burnt-out excavator continued to belch out flames and acrid black smoke over the site where around 100 people lost there lives in an explosion.

While adjacent districts of Lagos' northern suburbs were alive with frenetic music, candle-lit night markets and ramshackle minibuses embellished with fairy lights, Isola road in Ijegun was eerily quiet.

Attempts to extinguish the blaze had stopped for the night but the street was full of sand still hot underfoot with patches of red embers or spirals of smoke.

The earth-moving Caterpillar excavator brought in for work on the road burst an underground oil pipeline around midday, sparking a massive explosion near a primary school that caused death, injury and destruction on a large scale.

"When the Caterpillar driver came the people here warned him there was a pipeline under the ground. He said he'd be careful, but the minute he started work this happened," said Jimoh Hazan, a rotund middle-aged man ensconced, along with several female relatives, in white plastic chairs in front of the remains of his house.

"People have lost millions of naira and lots of cars," he said, indicating the wreck of a saloon car marooned in sand.

The light of the flames further down the street shows his roof is a write off and the front and yard walls destroyed.

"There was a terrible action people came to loot us while we were running away from the fire," Hazan, a football talent scout, told AFP.