STORY: Flip flops, bags and clothing belonging to those who died littered the ground, which was blackened by oil and soot while still emitting smoke in some places despite overnight rain.
The Nigerian Red Cross Society was on the scene on Sunday to assess the blast, which 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 refining attractive, but with often deadly consequences. Crude oil is tapped from a web of pipelines owned by major oil companies and refined in makeshift tanks.
The process has led to fatal accidents and polluted a region already blighted by oil spills in farmland, creeks and lagoons.