The disaster happened at Apawor, a village of about 2,000 inhabitants. "Hundreds of people rushed to scoop up petrol when suddenly there was a fire," one witness said.
A journalist who visited hospitals around the oil town of Warri reported hundreds of fatalities. "The death toll is rising by the minute. No less than 300 people have died," said Unconfirmed reports said more than 400 people were hospitalised. Many of the dead were said to have been trapped in a ditch where a pool of petrol had collected.
Oil industry officials blamed the disaster on sabotage but no group has claimed responsibility. Attacks against oil installations in the Niger Delta have increased recently.