35 people reportedly killed in fuel depot explosion in Republic of Benin


PORTO-NOVO – At least 35 people have been killed in Benin after a fuel depot exploded into flames, sending a black cloud of smoke into the sky, according to officials and witnesses.

The fire broke out on Saturday at a warehouse for smuggled fuel in the town of Seme-Podji near the border with Nigeria, where cars, motorbikes and tricycle taxis came to stock up on fuel, residents said.

“The fire burned down the store and according to an initial assessment resulted in 35 deaths including one child,” Prosecutor Abdoubaki Adam-Bongle in a statement.

According to the witnesses interviewed, the fire was probably started during the unloading of bags of gasoline, reports the Aljezeera.

More than a dozen others were seriously injured and are being treated in hospital, he said.

A video of the fire widely circulated on social media, verified by Al Jazeera, showed a tower of black smoke and flames spewing into the air above what appeared to be a marketplace as shocked people watch from a safe distance.

Benin’s Interior Minister, Alassane Seidou, said the “cause of the fire is smuggled fuel”.

He said the blaze left the bodies of the victims “badly charred”.

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Fuel smuggling is common along Benin’s border with Nigeria, a major oil producer and Illegal refineries, fuel dumps and pipelines have sprung up in border towns, sometimes causing fires.

The Justice Ministry said it had launched an investigation to determine the cause of the fire.

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