A tanker truck explosion that kills 95 people is a terrible thing, but what sets this one apart as a true tragedy is that abject poverty is what, figuratively, drove these people into the flames. (Warning: Graphic shot of the disaster below)
When a tanker truck crashed in Nigeria's Niger Delta region Thursday, its driver avoided colliding with several buses. But his truck tipped over in a ditch, spilling fuel everywhere. The spill attracted a swarm of people trying to collect the fuel. When it exploded, they were all burned alive.
It might be difficult for someone from a developed country to imagine people scurrying into a fuel spill to scoop up valuable fuel, but in oil-rich Nigeria, where poverty and corruption have incited violence on a fairly regular basis, it actually makes sense. People there are desperate.
The Delta region, where petroleum production in Nigeria began in the 1950s, is one of the country's poorest areas. People there don't have access to education, medical care, and perhaps most importantly, work. Theft from oil pipelines is commonplace.
The road where the accident occurred was under construction, but workers — hampered by a corrupt, slow moving bureaucracy — hadn't yet widened that section of road.
"This tells a tragic story about the state of national infrastructure and the poverty of the people," environmental activist Nnimmo Bassey told the Associated Press.
Why should we care about some poor people in a Nigerian backwater? According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Nigeria is ranked fifth among countries that export oil to the U.S., averaging about 1 million barrels per day.
A huge amount of oil imported to the U.S. comes from the Niger Delta specifically, while the people who live there have to deal with the social unrest and environmental impacts that come with oil extraction in a too often ignored corner of the world.
Photo credit: Associated Press