The burned out remains of a contraband fuel depot is pictured near the Benin-Nigeria border in Seme-Krake
Sharjah 24 – AFP: At least 34 people died in Benin near Nigeria's border on Saturday when a contraband fuel depot exploded into flames, sending up a black cloud of smoke into the sky and leaving dozens of charred bodies at the site, a government official and residents said.
The blaze erupted at a warehouse for smuggled fuel in the southern Benin town of Seme Podji, where cars, motorbikes and tricycle taxis came to stock up on fuel, according to local residents.
Nigeria is a major oil producer and fuel smuggling is common inside the country and along its borders, with illegal refineries, fuel dumps and pipelines sometimes causing fires.
Benin's Interior Minister Alassane Seidou told reporters a serious fire had ocurred in the town, but did not give details about exactly how it had happened.
The minister said another 20 people were being treated in hospital, including some in serious condition.
For decades, Nigeria's low-cost subsidised gasoline was transported illegally by road to neighbouring countries, primarily Benin, where it is resold on the black market by informal sellers.