Fireball death toll still rising

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The Independent Online
THE NIGERIAN fuel pipeline explosion, which killed more than 700 people three weeks ago, has claimed many more victims over the past week as the injured die in local hospitals.

The Nigerian Red Cross estimates that there are now 95 badly burnt victims struggling to survive, while two weeks ago it was estimated that there were 300 people still alive in hospital.

"Many of them have simply passed away. The situation is worse now than it was two weeks ago because infection is setting into the victims' wounds," said Ata Benson, of the Nigerian Red Cross.

Some of the most badly injured patients fled hospitals after a rumour spread that the government might try to arrest victims and charge them with starting the fire. The Nigerian Red Cross has sent out teams to villages to persuade the injured it is safe to return to hospital.

The fire was caused when an accidental spark set off an explosion at a leaking fuel pipeline. Hundreds of villagers from Jesse in south-eastern Nigeria had been scooping up the free fuel.

There is a severe shortage of hospital doctors in the region, and a lack of basic medicines. Many patients die without being treated. The Red Cross has received aid from the American, German and Japanese embassies in Nigeria but not enough to enable it to cope with a disaster of this scale.

The initial consignments of bandages and gauze are running out. The overall international response to the disaster has been poor. Potential donors say they are worried about allocating money to Nigeria because of corruption.

t Admiral Charles Abbot, deputy Commander-in-Chief of US forces in Europe, is visiting Nigeria to discuss regional security in Africa. He is ex-pected to meet the head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar.