A fuel tanker has exploded following a collision in the capital of Sierra Leone, killing at least 92 people and injuring dozens of others, officials said.
“We have received a report this morning that 92 people have died,” Vice President Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh said from the scene in an official confirmation of the toll from the explosion on Friday, adding that 88 more were in hospital being treated for severe burns.
The mortuary at Connaught Hospital in Freetown reported 92 bodies had been brought in by Saturday morning. About 30 severely burned victims were not expected to survive, according to Foday Musa, a staff member in the intensive care unit.
The explosion took place after a vehicle struck the tanker in Wellington, a suburb just to the east of Freetown.
Victims included people who had flocked to collect fuel leaking from the ruptured vehicle, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, mayor of the port city, said in a post on Facebook.
Several badly burned victims lay on the streets as fire blazed through shops and houses nearby, social media images showed, although the Reuters news agency was not immediately able to independently verify the clips.
“The video and photo footage making rounds on social media are harrowing,” Aki-Sawyerr said.
The extent of damage to property was as yet unknown, the mayor said, adding that police and her deputy were at the scene to assist disaster management officials.
“We’ve got so many casualties, burned corpses,” said Brima Bureh Sesay, head of the National Disaster Management Agency, in a video from the scene shared online. “It’s a terrible, terrible accident.”
— Ali Hashem علي هاشم (@alihashem_tv) November 6, 2021
Omar Fofana, a journalist speaking from the scene of the explosion, told Al Jazeera that more than 100 people had been injured and admitted at various hospitals across the country.
Health services have been stretched, with hospitals “asking for everything that they need to be able to respond,” he added.
He said that many people were sitting in heavy traffic when the explosion happened.
“Many of those who died, or were burned, were burned inside their vehicles,” he said.
According to Fofana, an emergency response meeting is expected to take place later today, which will be chaired by the country’s vice president.
President Julius Maada Bio, who was in Scotland attending the United Nations climate talks on Saturday, deplored the “horrendous loss of life”.
“My profound sympathies with families who have lost loved ones and those who have been maimed as a result,” he wrote on Twitter.
Deeply disturbed by the tragic fires and the horrendous loss of life around the Wellington PMB area. My profound sympathies with families who have lost loved ones and those who have been maimed as a result. My Government will do everything to support affected families. pic.twitter.com/xJRA1UtCJJ
— President Julius Maada Bio (@PresidentBio) November 6, 2021
Accidents involving petrol tankers have happened before in Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries in the world.
In other parts of Africa, similar incidents have also left many dead.
In 2009, more than 100 people were killed when a petrol tanker overturned northwest of the Kenyan capital Nairobi and an explosion burned those gathering to collect leaking fuel.
At least 100 people were killed when a tanker exploded in Tanzania in 2019, while in 2015 more than 200 perished in a similar accident in South Sudan.
In July this year, 13 people were killed and others seriously burned when a “huge fireball” engulfed a crowd in Kenya as they siphoned fuel from an overturned petrol truck that ignited without warning.
This content was originally published here.