Journalism of Courage

Fuel explosion kills at least 90 people in Sierra Leone


An oil tanker exploded near Sierra Leone’s capital, killing at least 90 people and severely injuring dozens of others after large crowds gathered to collect leaking fuel,  gathered from officials in Freetown.

The  fuel explosion took place late on Friday after a bus struck the tanker in Wellington, a suburb just to the east of Freetown.

The mortuary at Connaught Hospital said dozens of bodies had been brought in by Saturday morning. About 30 other severely burned victims were not expected to survive, according to staff member Foday Musa.

Injured people whose clothes had burned away in the fire that followed the explosion lay naked on stretchers as nurses attended to them on Saturday.

President Julius Maada Bio, who was in Scotland attending the United Nations climate summit on Saturday, deplored the “horrendous loss of life”.

“My profound sympathies with families who have lost loved ones,” he said on Twitter.

Vice President Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh visited two hospitals overnight and said Sierra Leone’s National Disaster Management Agency and others would “work tirelessly” in the wake of the fuel explosion.

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 Kenyan capital Nairobi and an explosion burnt 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 burnt when a “huge fireball” engulfed a crowd in Kenya as they siphoned fuel from an overturned petrol truck that ignited without warning.


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