Oil spill triggers fire outbreak in Bayelsa community

Samuel Oyadongha

19 August, 2011, Sweetcrude, Yenagoa –
An oil spill from a pipeline belonging to Shell Petroleum Development Company has reportedly caused fire outbreak at Ikarama in Okordia clan of Yenagoa local government area of Bayelsa State forcing some of the residents to flee their homes.

The serene rural community which is located on the bank of the Taylor creek it was learnt had experienced no fewer than six oil spills in the last three weeks some of which informed sources said were caused by either suspected saboteurs or equipment failure.

It was however learnt that the company had succeeded in clamping five oil spill sites at different locations before the outbreak of the inferno which threw the community in confusion.

According to the natives, they were woken up from sleep Wednesday night by the sound of explosion and raging fire.

The intensity of the heat and orange flame that lit up the night, they said forced many of them to evacuate their families for fear of the inferno spreading to their homes.

The distance between some huts/houses and the fire, according to Environment Rights Action Field Coordinator in the state, Comrade Alagoa Morris who was among the first of persons to visit the the troubled community to assess the extent of the despoliation on the environment, was less than 20 meters in some cases.

“The natives, young and old (including children) watched helplessly from safe distances. From the very thick column of smoke rising from the inferno, the flames cold be seen rising up to about 25 meters or so above the ground,” he noted and pleaded with the authorities to take steps to properly investigate the incessant spill in the community and outbreak of fire.

Also speaking on the inferno, a resident Mr. Tamunokomie E. Oba said “the fire outbreak caused a lot of panic because crude oil is all around our dwelling and we fear the fire might spread to burn down the house.”

Confirming the incident, SPDC Spokesman, Mr. Precious Okolobo said the fire was ignited by unknown persons.

He said, “there has been a fire outbreak on the Okordia-Rumuekpe Trunkline at Ikarama. The fire appeared to have been ignited by unknown persons at a previous spill point. An over fly yesterday showed the fire had brunt out.

SPDC had earlier mobilised a firefighting team but access was denied by a community women blockade. We are engaging the women for access to repair the leak.”

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