The Rivers State Police Command said it had begun a full-scale investigation into the explosion that claimed many lives at an illegal oil refining site in Ibaa community, Emuoha Local Government Area of the state.
The Force said the probe was to unravel the root cause of the inferno which it said was due to pipeline vandalism, saying the culprits would be apprehended and brought to justice.
Earlier, the state spokesman for the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Olufemi Ayodele, while confirming the incident in a statement on Monday, said 18 people were burnt beyond recognition, while 25 injured victims were rescued.
But the police said 15 people died, while 20 suffered various forms of injuries in the incident that occurred on Sunday night.
The spokesperson for the state police command, Grace Iringe-Koko, disclosed this in a statement issued on Wednesday morning and sent to newsmen.
The statement by the police which describes the incident as devastating was titled, ‘Rivers State Police Command Addresses Fatal Pipeline Fire Tragedy’.
It reads, “The Rivers State Police Command issues an official update regarding the recent pipeline fire incident:
“On Sunday, October 1, 2023, at 23:30 hours, the Rivers State Police Command received distress information about a tragic fire explosion at Ibaa community, Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State. Regrettably, 15 individuals, among them a pregnant woman, lost their lives in this devastating incident, while an additional 20 people suffered various degrees of burn injuries.
“These casualties were a result of an explosion at an oil pipeline owned by a major oil company, which had been illegally accessed for crude oil extraction within a forested area.
“Swift response by the police patrol team from Rumuji Division promptly arrived at the scene.
“They documented the incident with photographs and also facilitated a dignified evacuation of the deceased for proper burial by their grieving families.
“Those who sustained burn injuries were swiftly transported to nearby medical facilities for essential treatment.
“The Rivers State Police Command has initiated a thorough investigation to ascertain the root cause of this pipeline vandalisation with the intention of bringing the culprits to justice.
“Furthermore, Commissioner of Police, CP Nwonyi Emeka, has implored parents and guardians to take responsibility for guiding their children and wards from activities that could disrupt the quest for peaceful and sustainable development throughout the state.”