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2 dead as fuel tank explodes at Canada’s high commission in Nigeria

Pair confirmed as Nigerian maintenance workers, incident believed to be a terrible accident
Nigerian officials say there have been deaths after a fire at Canada’s high commission in Abuja. Cars drive past the National Assembly building in Abuja, Nigeria, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chinedu Asadu

Two Nigerian maintenance workers were killed Monday and two others injured when a diesel tank exploded at Canada’s high commission in Abuja.

Global Affairs Canada said an investigation is underway but there is no belief at this time that the explosion was anything other than a terrible accident.

Nkechi Isa, spokeswoman for the State Emergency Management Agency in Abuja, said a fire broke out in the morning while workers were servicing generators.

“The fire occurred when the tank of diesel in the generator house containing 2,000 litres exploded,” Isa told The Associated Press, adding that both people killed were Nigerian maintenance workers.

Two more maintenance workers were being treated for severe burns, she added.

Global Affairs Canada said in a statement that one of the two killed was a locally hired employee of the high commission.

“We can confirm all other staff at the high commission are safe and unharmed,” the statement said.

Global Affairs also said it has closed the mission, located in the diplomatic quarter of Abuja, until further notice.

“We are now ensuring that the site is safe and will work with local authorities in determining the cause of the explosion,” the department wrote.

“An investigation will be carried out, but at this point everything points to an accident rather than a deliberate act.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly confirmed the explosion midafternoon Monday in a statement posted to X, formerly known as Twitter.

“I send my heartfelt condolences to the families of the (two) people killed in this tragedy,” she wrote.

The office of Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu published an image of smoke wafting from the building. A spokesman wrote that Tinubu expressed condolences, and offered his government’s “full support” to those working at the high commission.

Global Affairs Canada data, provided to the Senate foreign affairs committee, said that as of August 2022 there were 12 Canadian diplomats and 32 locally hired staff at the Nigerian high commission.