Tanker truck explodes in Sierra Leone, killing at least 98 dead


At least 98 people were killed when a tank truck exploded on Friday evening after an accident in the capital of Sierra Leone.

Many of the victims were motorcyclists and taxi drivers trying to retrieve the fuel that had escaped at the time of the explosion, in the Wellington district of the capital, Freetown, according to an official with the management agency. disasters of the country. A witness to the aftermath of the blast said it also killed people near buildings outside and in vehicles.

The death toll could rise, official Mohamed Lamrana Bah said as more people were taken to hospitals in critical condition, although he could not specify a number.

The President of the West African country, Julius Maada Bio, said on twitter that he was “deeply disturbed” by what had happened and that he had pledged government support to affected families.

He and Freetown Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr cut short their trip to Glasgow for the COP26 climate summit and were on their way home on Saturday afternoon.

Sierra Leone’s Vice President Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh called on those who had taken fuel to return it, in case it exploded in their homes.

The tanker reportedly attempted to turn around around 10 p.m. when it collided with a truck carrying sand, Bah said. The tanker then began to leak fuel.

“Bikers, taxi drivers and locals rushed to the scene to collect the leaking fuel, and in the process the tanker exploded,” he said in an interview on Saturday morning. .

Mr Bah, who is the communications director of Sierra Leone’s National Disaster Management Agency, said a house and the sand truck tires were still burning and his agency and others were trying to clean up. The area.

In a video of the aftermath, a man cautiously walked away from the blast site, a few rags – all that were left of his clothes – clinging to his severely burned skin. He appeared to have been among those who attempted to salvage fuel.

“Satan called me. Let us pray. There is no god other than Allah. Let us pray, ”he repeated to himself as he walked.

In another video posted on WhatsApp, survivors of the blast were lying on the ground, trying to sit up or moving around moaning in a room at King Harman Road Satellite Hospital in Freetown. Staff members looked after them and distributed sachets of drinking water to them.

The explosion also set a nearby gas station on fire, Bah said.

A student who lives nearby said he heard the explosion and felt its warmth in his house, then rushed to the scene.

“We took off our shirts and wrapped our hands to lift the bodies from the fire scene and took them to a safe place,” said the student, Abdul Waheed Kamara, 26. “I personally saved 16 people, the last of them was a woman. Me and another man helped her get to a safe place. She was still alive but badly burned.

He said he counted more than 100 bodies and that firefighters arrived around 30 minutes after the explosion. There were no soldiers there and the police kept away from the fire, he said.

Among the dead, according to Kamara: a child carrying a backpack, people sleeping in a nearby garage and parking lot, traders who tried to retrieve their goods and were caught in the fire, and all of them. the passengers of a minibus which was hit by the force of the explosion.

“I can still see the scene of the woman I saved, and I can’t seem to get the images out of my head,” he said. “I won’t be able to see this place the same way again.”

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