Cotonou, Sep 24 (EFE).- An explosion at a depot for smuggled fuel in southern Benin has killed killed at least 35 people and injured several others, officials said on Sunday.
The explosion sparked a massive fire at the warehouse in south of Benin, near the Sèmè-Kraké border post with neighboring Nigeria.
“According to the witnesses interviewed, the fire was probably started during the unloading of bags of gasoline,” Prosecutor Abdoubaki Adam-Bongle said in a press statement.
The fire broke out in Seme-Podji town of the West African country around 9.30 a.m. local time on Saturday and left “35 dead, including a minor,” said the prosecutor.
More than a dozen sustained serious wounds, while the fire also caused a significant material damage.
Benin’s Interior Minister Alassane Seidou has confirmed that the “cause of the fire is smuggled fuel.”
The minister said the fire left thevictim bodies “badly charred.”
A video shared on social networks that EFE could not verify showed a huge column of black smoke at the place where the explosion occurred.
Gasoline smuggling is common between Nigeria, one of Africa’s top oil producers, and its neighboring countries.
The West African country heavily relies of smuggled fuel from Nigeria with a substantial black market.
The illegal industry is a major source of jobs in Benin – a country of about 13 million people.
The government is said to have undertaken several initiatives to curb the black marketing of fuel, but with varying degrees of success.
The country passed a law in 2018 that banned the illicit fuel trade and related activities, including sales outside the official trading and distribution network. EFE