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Pipeline explosion kills at least 200

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NEW: Hundreds of casualties expected because of densely populated area
• 10 buildings, cars also damaged
• Fuel shortages have led to people tapping pipelines
• Similar explosion happened in May, killing 150 people in Lagos
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LAGOS, Nigeria (CNN) -- At least 200 people were killed outside Lagos, Nigeria, in a massive explosion and fire that ignited as crowds carried away buckets of refined fuel from a tapped fuel pipeline, the Nigerian Red Cross said.

Extreme heat has prevented rescue workers from recovering bodies, and they fear the death toll could rise significantly.

At least 60 others were injured with burns, Nigerian Red Cross Secretary General Abiodun Orebiyi said.

"The explosion happened in a densely populated area, and that is why we're having these high casualty figures," Orebiyi added. (Watch how the pipeline incinerated buildings around the site Video)

The fire burned for nearly 12 hours after the blast, which happened around 1 a.m. local time (7 p.m. ET Monday) before it was brought under control, Orebiyi said.

By Tuesday afternoon, it was still unclear how many people were killed.

"We can see more bodies that have been burned," he said. "We have yet to determine the number of hundreds that have died in this explosion."

The blast and fire also damaged 10 buildings and vehicles that were parked at a large garage nearby, Orebiyi said.

Stealing fuel from the country's pipelines is a common and many times deadly occurrence in Nigeria. In May, at least 150 people died when vandals tried to tap a petrol pipeline outside Lagos.

"People try to siphon fuel from a pipeline, and after that, maybe an hour, a couple hours after that -- someone lights a cigarette or a motorcycle engine backfires, and an explosion appears," CNN's Jeff Koinange explained.

Despite the country's oil riches, much of Nigeria's population suffers from fuel shortages. People often tap into pipelines that cross their lands, seeking fuel for cooking or resale on the black market.

In September 2004, an oil pipeline exploded near Lagos, as thieves tried to siphon oil from it. Up to 50 people perished in the flames.

A 1998 pipeline blast killed more than 1,000 in southern Nigeria.

Nigeria is the fourth largest exporter of oil to the United States, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Copyright 2006 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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