FREETOWN (Reuters) -At least 99 people were killed and more than 100 injured in the capital of Sierra Leone late on Friday when a fuel tanker exploded following a collision, local authorities said.
Emergency crews worked to clear the scene on Saturday in the eastern Freetown suburb of Wellington where a burnt human body and the blackened shells of cars and motorbikes blocked the road following the crash, a Reuters reporter said.
The wounded were being treated in hospitals and clinics across the capital, deputy health minister Amara Jambai told Reuters.
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, although that post was later edited to remove the reference.
“We’ve got so many casualties, burnt 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.”
Videos shared online shortly after the explosion showed people running through clouds of thick smoke as large fires lit up the night sky.
Accidents with tanker trucks in Sub-Saharan Africa have previously killed scores of people who gathered at the site to collect spilled fuel and were hit by secondary blasts.
In 2019, a tanker explosion in Tanzania killed 85 people, while around 50 people were killed in a similar disaster in Democratic Republic of Congo in 2018.
The mayor said the extent of the damage in Freetown was not yet clear.
“My profound sympathies with families who have lost loved ones and those who have been maimed as a result,” President Julius Maada Bio tweeted.
“My Government will do everything to support affected families.” (Reporting by Umaru Fofana in Freetown and Bhargav Acharya in Bengaluru; Writig by Bhargav Acharya and Alessandra Prentice Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Frances Kerry and Giles Elgood)
Photo National Disaster Management Agency-Sierra Leone/Handout