At least 92 people have now been confirmed dead in the explosion of a tanker truck in Freetown, the capital of the West African Sierra Leone, according to authorities. The explosion followed a collision, and rescuers are continuing to search for more victims today.
The disaster happened last night in a suburb of the capital Freetown. The administrator of the government-run morgue reports that 91 bodies have been brought. There are also 30 very seriously injured. Their chances of survival are slim, and the death toll could rise sharply in the coming hours, local sources said.
Among the victims were people who had gathered to collect fuel that leaked from the broken down vehicle, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, mayor of the port city, wrote in a Facebook post. He said the extent of the damage is not yet clear, adding that police were on the scene to assist emergency response officials.
There are reports of many women and children with severe burns among the victims. Charred victims have been found in side streets, some of them burned in their cars. According to witnesses, the fire started after a collision that drew many people from the neighborhood. Many saw an opportunity to scoop oil from the leaking tanker. It caught fire, after which the fire also spread through the neighborhood.
“We have so many victims, so many burned bodies,” the authorities said in an online video. “It’s a terrible, terrible accident.” Shocking photos circulating on social media show the heavily charred bodies of dozens of victims. Vice President Mohamed Jeledh Jalloh was on site this morning to speak with residents.
“My deepest condolences to families who have lost loved ones and those who have been maimed as a result,” tweeted President Julius Maada Bio. “My government will do everything in its power to support the families affected.”
Former President Ernest Bai Koroma is also shocked by the disaster. “Deeply saddened by last night’s horrific fire accident in eastern Freetown, allegedly the result of a petrol tanker explosion,” he wrote on Twitter. “The events are truly appalling with dozens of our compatriots reportedly killed or seriously injured.”
Such accidents are more common in Africa. Numerous buildings in the vicinity of the exploded tanker have caught fire.