A fuel tanker carrying petrol crashed, but authorities told the BBC the vehicle did not immediately burst into flames so nearby villagers rushed to collect the fuel.
However moments later the tanker burst into flames and burned many of the pedestrians to death.
River state police spokesman Ben Ugwuegbulam told Reuters news agency, “Early this morning a tanker loaded with petrol fell in Okogbe and people trooped to the scene obviously to scoop the spilled fuel and suddenly there was fire resulting in casualties”.
The death toll might be higher as many of the villagers ran into the bush after they were set ablaze and their bodies have not been found yet.
Journalist Emeka Idika told the BBC a mass burial for those burnt beyond recognition would take place in Rivers state.
The county’s road safety body said the petrol tanker had crashed into three other vehicles, Nigeria’s Daily Times reports.
The crash serves as a sobering reminder that Nigeria is a major oil exporter, but millions of its citizens live in poverty without any access to its prized natural resources.
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