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March 22, 2003
 
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Totalfinaelf Evacuates Tense Nigeria Oilfield

Reuters


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WARRI, Nigeria (Reuters) - TotalFinaElf shut its oil production facilities in Nigeria's western delta and evacuated workers on Saturday because of spiraling tribal unrest in the area, company officials said.

A Reuters correspondent saw a helicopter land in the oil city of Warri, bringing the first group of workers fleeing fighting in oilfields around the Escravos export terminal.

The group was accompanied by armed soldiers.

The officials said the helicopters were ferrying frightened workers from the Opumami tank farm, the French oil firm's most important facility in the Obodo district where it produces just 7,500 barrels per day of crude.

But there was no immediate official confirmation that militants had set fire to part of the tank farm.

"We are still getting reports from the area. We are following the situation," a TotalFinaElf official said in Lagos.

A surge in ethnic conflict in the Nigerian delta has forced oil majors Shell and ChevronTexaco to shut down their operations with the loss of a total 315,000 bpd of crude, or 16 percent of Nigeria's output.

"We decided to shut our production and evacuate the area because of the deteriorating situation," the official added.

The Niger Delta, which accounts for most of Nigeria's just over two million bpd crude output, has been on the boil for years, with oil multinationals getting caught in a deadly struggle for oil benefits by local ethnic groups.

The latest flare-up pits ethnic Itsekiri against the Ijaw, who are spearheading a campaign in the delta for a greater share of Nigeria's oil wealth. The increasingly violent campaign has added to nationwide political unrest threatening the country's national elections next month.

Scores of people, including 10 soldiers quelling unrest, have died in the past one week alone.

Copyright 2003 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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