At least 12 people were killed today from explosion which occurred in a Shell oil pipeline in Nigerialocal authorities said, while members of the affected community in Imohua said they feared many more were killed in the blast.

A spokesman for Shell Petroleum Development (SPD) of Nigeria Limited said there was a fire on the Rumuekpe-Nkpoku line in Rivers State and that there was cooperation with the authorities to put it out.

Garuba Yabuku, a spokesman for the civil protection agency in Imohua, in Rivers State, the heart of Africa’s largest oil industry, said the incident was reported at around 16:30 (05:30 Greek time).

“The pipeline was destroyed by fire,” he said from the scene, where fire was still burning from the pipeline next to five burned vehicles next to a palm grove.

“Many people were burned in the fire, men and women,” community leader Ogbona Francis, a farmer, told Reuters from the scene.

Shell Petroleum Development stressed that an investigation by a joint government-led team would begin to find the cause of the incident.

Oil theft and pipeline sabotage are common in Nigeria’s southern oil-producing heartland. The methods used to steal oil often lead to accidents that cause fires.

In April last year, a similar disaster killed 100 people.