The Saturday night explosion occurred at the site located in the Ohaji-Egbema local government area of Imo State in the Abaezi forest that straddles the border of the two states.

“The fire outbreak occurred at an illegal bunkering site and it affected over 100 people who were burnt beyond recognition,” the state Commissioner for Petroleum Resources, Goodluck Oprah, told journalists.

The Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre said several vehicles that were in a queue to buy illegal fuel were simmered in the blast.

According to reports, Nigerian police are currently looking for the owner of the illegal oil refinery.

Ifeanyi Nnaji of the National Emergency Management Agency told BBC that the number killed stood at 109 as of the time of reporting.

“We learnt many bodies are in nearby bushes and forests as some illegal operators and their patrons scampered for safety,” he said.

“The Rivers State governor has made a push recently to stamp out illegal refining in Rivers so it has to move to the fringes and neighbouring states. In the last month or two, there were several raids and some security agents involved were tackled,” Ledum Mitee, former president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (Mosop),” said.

At least 25 people including children, were killed in an explosion and fire at another illegal refinery in Rivers State in October last year.