Image: A plume of smoke rises from an oil tanker after an explosion in Port Harcourt
Reuters
A plume of smoke rises from an oil tanker after an explosion in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, on Friday.
updated 1/12/2008 9:58:33 AM ET 2008-01-12T14:58:33

A fuel tanker caught fire Saturday on a busy road in Nigeria's southern oil region, and dozens of people were feared dead, police said.

It wasn't known what ignited the cargo in the truck as it traveled on a road along the outskirts of Port Harcourt, but up to three dozen people were feared killed in the blaze, said a Rivers State police spokeswoman, Ireju Barasua. Police were investigating first reports of the fire and had no firm casualty toll, she cautioned.

It wasn't known if the blaze was linked to the region's militants, who have promised to step up their campaign of bombings and kidnappings. A spokesman for fighters couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

On Thursday, the militants said they remotely detonated a bomb on a fuel tanker ship docked at Port Harcourt, sending clouds of smoke billowing into the sky. Three people were injured in that incident.

Road accidents are common in Nigeria, where years of neglect has left the road network in poor condition, and automobiles are often poorly maintained. The sides of major thoroughfares are frequently crowded with the stalls of petty traders, so accidents frequently have high death tolls.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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