Ninety-nine dead in tanker explosion in Sierra Leone’s capital

FREETOWN, Nov.6 (Reuters) – At least 99 people were killed and more than 100 injured in the Sierra Leone capital on Friday evening when a tanker truck exploded in a collision, local authorities said .

Emergency crews worked to clear the scene on Saturday in Wellington, on the eastern outskirts of Freetown, where a burnt body and blackened wreckage of cars and motorcycles blocked the road after the crash, a Reuters reporter said. .

The injured were treated in hospitals and clinics in the capital, Deputy Health Minister Amara Jambai told Reuters.

Among the victims were people who had gathered to retrieve the fuel that leaked from the broken vehicle, said Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, mayor of the port city, in a Facebook post, although this post was later edited. to remove the reference.

“We have so many victims, corpses burned,” said Brima Bureh Sesay, head of the National Disaster Management Agency, in a video of the scene shared online. “It’s a terrible, terrible accident.”

Videos shared online shortly after the explosion showed people running through clouds of thick smoke as large fires lit up the night sky. Reuters was unable to immediately verify the footage, but witnesses described the horror.

“We are all in shock. A lady I had just bought bread from has passed away. A lovely woman. I cannot get over this grief,” Abdul Kabia said, crying at the crash site surrounded by mutilated vehicles.

OVERFLOWED HPITAL

Ople watch burned a car and motorcycles after a tank truck exploded in Freetown, Sierra Leone on November 6, 2021. National Disaster Management Agency-Sierra Leone / Document via REUTERS

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The accident was a major challenge for the health service in Freetown, already cracked by years of underfunding. The 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak emptied the ranks of the country’s medical staff, 250 of whom died, and the system has not recovered.

Connaught Hospital has been overwhelmed by the influx of patients, so some of the injured have been moved to other locations, including a military hospital, said Swaray Lengor, program manager at the International Federation of Societies of Human Rights. the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

“The situation at the hospital, especially at Connaught Hospital (…) is overwhelming. Medical consumables and inadequate bed capacity,” Lengor told Reuters via text message. “Partner NGOs have been invited to provide equipment, medical supplies and food. “

The death toll would likely increase, he said.

The World Health Organization has announced it will send supplies and deploy burn specialists.

“We will provide more support if needed at this terrible time for the people of Sierra Leone,” he said on Twitter.

Tanker crashes in sub-Saharan Africa have already killed dozens of people who had gathered at the site to collect the spilled fuel and were struck by secondary explosions.

In 2019, an oil tanker explosion in Tanzania left 85 people dead, while around 50 people were killed in a similar disaster in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2018.

“My sincere condolences to the families who have lost loved ones and to those who have been mutilated by them,” tweeted President Julius Maada Bio. “My government will do everything to support the affected families.”

Umaru Fofana reporting in Freetown; Bhargav Acharya in Bangalore; and Edward McAllister in Dakar Writing by Bhargav Acharya and Alessandra Prentice Editing by Frances Kerry, Giles Elgood and Edmund Blair

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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