Over 50 people are missing after an oil pipeline connecting a local source and an Exxon refinery exploded in Nembe, Nigeria, according to reports.
The explosion of the petroleum trunk line — operated by the Port Harcourt-based Aiteo Group — occurred early Friday morning local time, according to Reuters.
In the panic following the early morning explosion, at least 50 were confirmed dead even as injury counts remained unreported and the uncontained rupture continued to spout enormous amounts of flame and smoke.
The blast was reportedly followed by a large oil spill in the Nembe kingdom in Bayelsa state, according to Nembe chief council spokesman Chief Nengi James-Eriworio, cited by the Associated Press.
The pipeline — a Nembe feeder line owned and operated by the Nigerian-based Aiteo Group — transports crude oil to the Exxon-owned Bonny export terminal on the Gulf of Guinea.
Neither Exxon or Aiteo have released an official response to the disaster, according to Apnews.com.
A nationwide strike against oil companies, including Exxon, by workers seeking a living wage took place in September 2018. Workers demanded a minimum wage increase from $50 each month to about $179 a month.
Hundreds have died in the area in similar tragedies in recent years as large oil producers and refiners operate with little regulation and oversight. A highly-polluted maritime region, the Niger Delta is densely populated and oil rich.