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News Making International Headlines: 25 April 2022

Explosion at Nigerian Illegal Oil Refinery Kills over 100

INTERNATIONAL: Vehicles were left burnt out and fuel pooled on the ground in Nigeria's Imo state on Sunday (24 April) following an overnight explosion at an illegal oil refining depot.

The state commissioner for petroleum resources, Goodluck Opiah, said that more than 100 people were killed in the explosion, remarking that they were "burnt beyond recognition."

The Commissioner for Environment of Imo State, Cyril Duru, said mass burials would be necessary to stop any outbreak of disease, adding that it was not possible to identify the dead, due to the condition of the bodies after the blast.

The Nigerian Red Cross Society was on the scene on Sunday to assess the extent of the damage.

The explosion had destroyed a section of the Abaezi forest, which straddles the border of the Ohaji-Egbema Local Government Area of Imo state with Rivers state.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said in a statement that he would intensify the clampdown on illegal refineries after what he described as a "catastrophe" and "national disaster".

Unemployment and poverty in the oil-producing Niger Delta have made illegal crude refining an attractive business, albeit with deadly consequences.

Crude oil is tapped from a web of pipelines owned by major oil companies and refined into products in makeshift tanks.

Government officials estimate that Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil producer and exporter, loses an average of 200,000 barrels of oil per day, more than 10% of production, to illegal tapping or vandalizing of pipelines.

Debanhi Escobar’s Death Sparks Gender Violence Protests

INTERNATIONAL: Hundreds protested in Mexico City on Sunday (April 24) to demand justice for the victims of violence and femicides after the death of Debanhi Escobar, an 18-year-old law student whose body was found submerged in a water tank inside the grounds of a motel in the northern state of Nuevo Leon.

The protesters demanded the resignation of the state secretary of security, Aldo Fasci, and carried signs with the names and faces of Debanhi and other local women who have gone missing or been found dead recently.

Local authorities in Nuevo Leon said on Friday (April 22) that the cause of Escobar’s death was a contusion to the skull and that all lines of the investigation remained open.

The nearly two-week search for Escobar, who disappeared on April 9, has sparked new anguish and outrage over gender violence, prompting protests across the country.

Her death came amid a spate of disappearances of women in the state of Nuevo Leon. Since the beginning of this year, at least 26 women and girls have disappeared, and six more - including Debanhi - have been found dead after being reported missing.

Former Illegal Logger Becomes "Protector of the Forest" at National Park

INTERNATIONAL: One of the world's largest cave systems lies within the misty hills of Vietnam's central Quang Binh province.

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and tour guide Ngoc Anh is very familiar with the jungle and especially the trees that grow there.

The 36-year-old used to be a logger who used to illegally chop down the valuable trees to sell as timber.

But as extreme rainfall and floods increasingly devastated his community, Anh read up on the ongoing climate and natural crises and turned instead to tourism and conservation. Now, he is one of 250 former loggers trained by an adventure tourism company to lead mostly foreign tourists through jungles and caves.

According to Global Forest Watch, Vietnam lost about 3 million hectares of tree cover between 2001 and 2020 - a 20% decrease since 20 years ago driven primarily by the commodities sectors. A government crackdown on illegal logging since 2007 has helped slow the rate of deforestation and the country has joined a recent global pledge to end deforestation by 2030.

Ngoc Anh joined the company Oxalis Adventure Tours in 2015, just two years after one of the world's largest caves opened to the public. He learned to speak English through daily interaction with foreign tourists. There are now around 250 former illegal loggers who work in tourism.

Always accompanied by a park ranger, Ngoc Anh and other tour guides help patrol the trails to keep poachers away, remove animal traps and clean up trash.

He says he is happy to see more animals in the forest compared to a decade ago when logging was in full swing.

The guides now earn less than half of what they earned in their logging days but hope to earn more as tourism and travel gradually resume.

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