COTONOU, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) -- At least 35 people were killed and more than ten seriously injured in a fire at a petrol warehouse on Saturday in Benin's southeastern department of Oueme, the Beninese Ministry of the Interior and Public Security reported.
The fire, breaking out in a town near the border with Nigeria, was probably started when bags of petrol were being unloaded from a vehicle at around 9:30 a.m. (0830 GMT), the ministry said in a statement.
The fire engulfed the place, causing an initial toll of 35 deaths, "including one child, and more than a dozen serious injuries sent to hospital, as well as significant material damage," said the statement.
The fire brigade, police and medical teams were immediately mobilized to tackle the situation, said the statement, adding that the Public Prosecutor's Office has opened a full investigation into the cause of the accident.
In Benin, smuggled petrol comes from its eastern neighbor, Nigeria, a major oil producer where fuel is cheaper.
Thousands of liters of petrol sold on the streets of Benin's towns and neighborhoods generally come from stations located along the Benin-Nigeria border.
The trade, which generates huge profits, also entails major risks, given the precarious conditions in which the product is stored. As a result, fires occur frequently with heavy tolls. ■