LAGOS, Nigeria -- Clutching photos, residents searched frantically yesterday for relatives still missing after a massive fire at a gasoline pipeline in this overcrowded Nigerian city, hoping their loved ones were not among the 265 people killed.
Olaniyi Adebayo, a 46-year-old transport worker, gave a picture of his 15-year-old daughter Adebola to Red Cross rescue workers as he tried to find her.
"It is not all who are dead, some are in hospitals and we don't know where," he said after looking for his daughter at several health clinics. "My wife is at home crying. . . . We just had Christmas together. Adebola was going to join the church choir."
The pipeline exploded Tuesday after being illegally tapped by thieves who had been carting away gas in tankers for resale. The thieves had failed to reseal the pipeline, prompting hundreds of residents to rush to collect spurting gas with cans, buckets, and plastic bags, witnesses said.
Like many looking for relatives at a Red Cross stall, Adebayo insists his daughter would only have been watching the commotion, rather than scooping up fuel. The Red Cross said at least 60 survivors had been documented, but the number of injuries was likely higher. One woman, who declined to give her name, said many survivors were afraid to report to health authorities, fearing arrest for stealing gas.
Pipeline tapping is common in Nigeria, where most of the country's 130 million people live in poverty despite their country's role as Africa's leading crude producer. A single pilfered can of gas sold on the black market can earn two weeks of wages for a poor Nigerian.
Most of the bodies were quickly buried in a mass grave to prevent an outbreak of cholera.