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10 FEARED DEAD IN WARRI REFINERY EXPLOSION •MEND claims responsibility, says it planned ‘hurricane exodus’

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THE Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) has claimed responsibility for the sabotage of facilities inside the Warri Refinery and Petrochemical Company in Warri, Delta State, on Tuesday, saying it actually wanted to carry out what it termed “Hurricane Exodus” to burn down the entire facility.

There was pandemonium at about 11.00 a.m on Tuesday, as fire engulfed the refinery.

Disclosing its action in a press statement circulated electronically to journalists in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on Tuesday, by its spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, the  group claimed that its plan was to burn down the refinery.

The group said the attack was a reaction to the failure of the amnesty programme of the Federal Government, adding that its onslaught against the Nigerian oil industry would not stop until government changed its approach to solving Niger Delta problem.

“MEND takes responsibility for the sabotage this morning, Tuesday, October 22, inside the NNPC Refinery in Warri. ‘Hurricane Exodus’ was intended to burn down the entire refining facility.

“As long as President Goodluck Jonathan continues to rely on an unsustainable and fraudulent Niger Delta amnesty programme, peace and security will continue to elude his government in the region,” the statement said.

Although information on the causes of the inferno were still sketchy, an unconfirmed source said no fewer than 10 workers died, with some others sustaining varying degrees of burns.

Nigerian Tribune gathered that the casualties were ferried to the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) clinic and other medical centres nearby.

The company’s Public Affairs Manager, Mrs Emmanuelle Ate, however, was reported to have, however, said there was no casualties, saying it was a minor fire outbreak that was quickly brought under control.

It was learnt that the incident occurred when a routine maintenance was being carried out at the 10-H-02 equipment in Area II.

Another source said several components of the refinery had been faulty and needed to be upgraded, adding that some engineers were on duty to fix a leak in the gas component before it went in flames.

When the Nigerian Tribune got to the gate of the company at about mid-day, security operatives, including soldiers, were seen keeping surveillance, while visitors, including Red Cross officials, were prevented from gaining entrance.

Journalists were also barred from having a feel of the incident, with one of the security men saying they should return the following day to gather information from the Public Affairs department.

No fewer than four ambulances were seen moving to and from the premises of the company, with occupants armed with hand gloves and nose covers, an indication that the explosion may have recorded casualties.

Though the cause was yet to be ascertained, a source said the company officials were still carrying out investigation.

It was gathered that the directives and prompt intervention of the Managing Director, Mr Paul Obelley, who cut short his trip to Rivers State on account of his daughter’s wedding on Saturday, actually nipped the explosion in the bud .

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