LAGOS (AFP) - An oil pipeline explosion killed about 100 people on Thursday in a northern suburb of Nigeria's biggest city Lagos, the Red Cross said. "About 100 people were confirmed dead in the explosion. We have also evacuated about 20 others to the Ikeja general hospital," Red Cross official Sule Mekudi told AFP from the scene. "Most of the evacuees were seriously burnt," he added. Abdulsalam Muhammad, a spokesman for the country's national emergency agency, said earlier that 10 people had been killed and at least 36 people rescued and taken to a nearby military hospital. Rescuers were beginning to leave the Ijegun scene as darkness set in, Abdulsalam said. "We are just leaving the scene now. The fire has drastically reduced. We will also discuss (how) to improve on our level of preparedness against future occurrence," he said. A combined team of firefighters from the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the fire service, construction firm Julius Berger and state-run oil giant Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) managed to put off the fire," he said. Lagos police spokesman Frank Mba said rescue operations were ongoing but that it was too early to provide casualty figures. "We are still appraising the situation. At this stage, I cannot confirm the cause of the explosion and the casualty figure," he said. Witnesses earlier said local people were trying to help firefighters extinguish the blaze, using sand and water. The Red Cross official said the explosion was caused by a piece of earth-moving machinery working on a road construction site that accidentally burst the pipeline, causing an explosion and a fire. The scene of the blast in Ijegun, which was near a primary school, was littered with shoes and bags belonging to pupils, a journalist at the scene told AFP. Lagos MP, Adeola Olamilekan, who was at the scene of the accident, in a televised interview, thanked the firefighters for battling to put out the fire, which started around noon. Lagos-based private television showed footage of the raging inferno during its 8pm (1900 GMT) news bulletin. Pipeline fires are commonplace in Nigeria, Africa's biggest producer of crude, in part because of poor pipeline maintenance but also because of thieves who vandalise pipelines to siphon off petrol and sell it on the black market.Last Christmas Day, around 40 people died in a fire at a pipeline in a creek on the outskirts of Lagos after it was vandalised by looters. Exactly one year earlier more than 200 people died scooping fuel from a vandalised pipeline in another district of Lagos. According to NNPC statistics, between 400 and 500 acts of vandalism occur every year on its pipelines. More than 1,000 villagers were burnt to death in 1998 in Jesse, near oil city Warri in southern Delta State following the vandalisation of a fuel pipeline. The victims were suspected of scooping petrol from the burst pipeline for resale on the black market. NNPC has in past years been campaigning against pipeline vandalisation. Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, derives more than 95 percent of its foreign exchange earnings from oil.