An explosion at an illegal oil refinery in southern Nigeria has killed at least 80 people, the emergency services said on Sunday.
The explosion occurred late Friday at the illegal site between southern oil states of Rivers and Imo, police said.
"We recovered at least 80 badly burnt bodies at the scene," Ifeanyi Nnaji of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in the area, told AFP, adding that the toll could rise further.
"Several bodies burnt beyond recognition lay on the ground while others who may have attempted running for safety are seen hanging on some tree branches," said Fyneface Dumnamene, Executive Director of Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC).
Police said there had been an explosion at the site of an illegal refinery late Friday where operators and their patrons had gathered for business.
"The incident happened on the boundary between Rivers and Imo state," Rivers state police spokeswoman Grace Iringe-Koko told AFP, without giving details.
Illegal crude refining is common in the southern-oil region where oil thieves vandalise pipelines to steal crude which they refine to sell at the black market.
Pipeline fires are commonplace in Nigeria, in part because of poor pipeline maintenance but also because of thieves who vandalise pipelines to siphon off petrol and sell it on the black market.
Hundreds have been killed in the past due to stealing and illegal refining of petroleum products known locally as bunkering.
The government has deployed the military to raid and destroy illegal refineries in the Niger delta as part of measures to stop the stealing of the country's oil resources.
Nigeria is Africa’s largest producer of crude oil but it has very few official refineries and as a result most gasoline and other fuels are imported, creating an opening for the illegal refinery operators.
The practice is so widespread that is affecting crude oil production in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.
With inputs from agencies