At least 34 people died in Benin on Saturday when a warehouse for smuggled fuel exploded into flames, a government official and residents said.
The fire broke out on Saturday at a warehouse for smuggled fuel in the town of Seme-Podji near the border with Nigeria, where cars, motorbikes and tricycle taxis came to stock up on fuel.
Local media report that the prosecutor’s office has launched an investigation.
Benin’s Interior Minister, Alassane Sédou, was among the officials who visited the scene.
The minister of health, Benjamin Hounkpatin, detailed the state of the injured, saying that at the moment, the burn victims have been stabilized. Revealing that 12 of the injured are in critical condition and require intensive care.
The blaze sent a black cloud of smoke into the sky, shocking residents.
For decades, Nigeria’s subsidized fuel was transported illegally by road to neighboring countries to be resold on the black market.
When he came to office in May, Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu abandoned the long-standing subsidy meant to keep petrol prices artificially low for Nigerians.
The subsidy cost the government billions of dollars a year and Tinubu made it the first of a series of reforms aimed at revamping Nigeria’s economy and attracting more investment.
That decision caused a tripling in petrol prices in Nigeria but also impacted the price of black market fuel smuggled over the border into Benin and other countries.
Nigeria’s subsidy decision illustrated Benin’s deep economic dependence on its giant neighbor, with 215 million inhabitants, the continent’s largest economy and its status as one of Africa’s top oil producers.