Oil vessel explodes off Nigeria’s coast; casualties feared

ABUJA, Nigeria — An oil production vessel has exploded off the coast of Nigeria, an official of the Shebah Exploration and Production Company Limited said Thursday, amid fears of the deaths of crew members.

Ten crew were on board when the explosion occurred on Wednesday in Nigeria’s southwest Delta state, said Ikemefuna Okafor, CEO of the oil company. He said that the cause of the blast is under investigation as all parties involved in the emergency attempt to control the situation.

It is not immediately clear how much damage was caused by the explosion but videos purported to have been taken from the scene show the vessel engulfed in fire and thick smoke as oil workers and fishermen watch from nearby.

The floating oil production, storage and offloading vessel is in the oil-rich Niger Delta region. According to the company, the vessel can store up to 2,000,000 barrels of oil.

SEPCOL is “prioritizing investigations with respect to their safety and security” and has notified all relevant authorities about the development, Okafor said.

Nigerian authorities have taken steps in the past to curb such disasters which experts have argued often occur as a result of non-compliance with industry regulations. Nigerian lawmakers stated that a wellhead leaking more than 2,000,000 barrels of oil in the Niger Delta area over a month had been reported by December.

Residents are usually affected, suffering from polluted land, water and air, say experts.

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