Sunday, February 12, 2012

Nigeria News: Chevron fire in Niger Delta enters week four

Global Post
6 February 2012

With no end in sight, dead fish are surfacing in the surrounding waters and people are getting sick.

A Chevron oil rig off Nigeria is now a raging inferno. Here a fire burns with crude oil seized by the Nigerian military from oil thieves in the Andoni area of Rivers State on April 12, 2011. (Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images)It used to be a Chevron natural gas rig in Nigeria.

Now it is an inferno, entering its fourth week ablaze off Nigeria’s Atlantic coast, polluting nearby waters and making local people sick.

The fire began on Jan. 16, killing two workers and forcing Chevron Nigeria Limited to evacuate 152 others. In a statement on its website, the company says it does not know exactly what caused the fire, or how long it will take to extinguish it.

The Associated Press reports dead fish surfacing in surrounding waters and increasing skin and gastrointestinal problems reported among the Nigerians living in the villages on shore. At its hottest point, the fire is 1,340 degrees Fahrenheit (nearly 730 degrees Celsius), which is “hot enough to soften steel.”

The increasing illnesses are a result of warmer water temperatures causing bacteria to grow rapidly, according to Dr. Oladipo Folorunso, the only doctor treating patients in Ikebiri, a town affected by the fire.

“The community here has no other source of water apart from the river water, which on its own isn’t even safe enough to drink, but the pollution has made the water even worse,” he told the AP.

International Business Times reports that on Jan. 26, company officials said the fire could take another month to extinguish. The company says plans to build a well to put out the fire have been finalized, and it is monitoring the environmental impact.

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