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Oil vessel explodes off Nigeria’s coast; casualties feared

February 3, 2022 GMT

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — 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. The cause of the explosion is being investigated as “necessary parties” work to contain the situation, he added.

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. The company has said the vessel has the capacity of storing up to 2 million barrels of oil.

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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. In December, Nigerian federal lawmakers said a wellhead spilled more than 2 million barrels of oil and gas in the Niger Delta region over one month.

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