A tanker truck explosion at night in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown caused massive loss of life, with dozens reportedly dead. Many of the victims were allegedly trying to collect fuel after an accident on the road.
Images shared online and purportedly taken after the blast show a massive fire in the street, with a column of smoke billowing into the air. Officials did not immediately provide details about the incident, but the head of the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) said it was a “terrible, terrible accident.”
— SIERRAEYESALONE (@sierraeyesalone) November 5, 2021
In the hours after the incident, the death toll cited by officials has been steadily increasing. Vice President Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh said at least 92 people were killed after visiting two hospitals which received victims.
The same figure was reported by the city’s central morgue, which said that is how many bodies were brought in from the scene. A later update revised it to 95. A deputy health minister later put the death toll at 99.
A Connaught Hospital staff member told the Associated Press that there were 30 seriously burned victims who were not expected to survive.
The explosion went off at Bai Bureh Road, a major traffic route in the eastern part of Freetown, and happened after the fuel truck collided with another vehicle, Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr said. She called images from the scene “harrowing” and cited unconfirmed reports that the death toll may be over 100.
“Residents who tried to collect the fuel leaking from the truck were victims of the subsequent explosion,” the mayor added in a statement on Facebook, but later deleted this part.
— SIERRAEYESALONE (@sierraeyesalone) November 6, 2021
The claim that people were collecting fuel is supported by footage of excited people standing around the tanker, some carrying canisters, which was allegedly taken shortly before the explosion.
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