Fuel tanker explosion kills at least 98 in Sierra Leone capital

Fuel tanker explosion kills at least 98 in Sierra Leone capital

Dakar, Senegal: A fuel tanker exploded on the outskirts of Sierra Leone’s seaside capital has killed at least 98 people and wounded dozens of others in one of the deadliest accidents the West African nation has endured in years.

The tanker burst into flames at a busy intersection after colliding with a truck in Freetown’s suburb of Wellington, late on Friday, turning the night sky orange, photos and video show.

People walk by burning debris following the explosion of an oil tanker in the Wellington suburb of Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown .Credit:AP

“I’ve never seen something like this before in all my years of practice as a surgeon,” said Mustapha Kabba, head of Connaught Hospital, the city’s largest medical centre. “We have a lot of severe injuries. A lot of burns. A lot of corpses.”

Practically, every doctor in the area rushed to the hospital and treated victims through the night, he said. By Saturday, medical workers were scrambling to find enough IV fluids, antibiotics and other essentials for soothing burns. Family members gathered outside, waiting for news about loved ones.

At least 92 people were injured in the blast, Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr wrote on her Facebook page, adding, “The video and photo footage making rounds on social media are harrowing.”

People had crowded around the crash to collect leaking fuel when the tanker blew up, witnesses said. Anything spilled was viewed as wasteful in a community where many struggled to afford gas. The wreck didn’t seem dangerous until it burst into flames.

People gather around the charred oil tanker that exploded after being struck by a truck in the Wellington suburb of Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown.Credit:AP

“There are dead bodies all around,” one witness, Jusu Jaka Yormah, told reporters at the site, who shared a recording of his account in a WhatsApp voice message. “There are people screaming, people burning alive.”

Nearby cars and buildings quickly caught fire.

“The firefighters came, but there was nothing they could do by then,” Yormah said. “The blaze was so much. There was nothing they could do to contain the inferno.”

Officials initially said a bus was involved in the accident but clarified on Saturday that the tanker hit a truck carrying granite stones as it pulled into a gas station.

Authorities say at least eighty people are dead and others critically wounded after an oil tanker exploded near Sierra Leone’s capital.Credit:AP Photo/Seima Camara

“Both drivers came out of their vehicles and warned community residents to stay off the scene,” Sierra Leone’s National Disaster Management Agency wrote in a statement, but people kept scooping up the gas in makeshift containers.

The death toll is likely to rise, officials warned, as more bodies are recovered from the debris.

The nation’s president, who was in Scotland on Saturday for the U.N. climate summit, tweeted an image of people standing around the smoking wreckage.

“My profound sympathies with families who have lost loved ones,” President Julius Maada Bio wrote, “and those who have been maimed as a result.”

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