At least 98 people died on Friday after a fuel tanker exploded in a suburb of Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, according to authorities in the West African country.
Mohamed Lamrane Bah, director of communications for Sierra Leone’s National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), told CNN that several people were also in critical condition following the explosion.
Authorities have transferred injured people to hospitals and collected the bodies, and the rescue effort at the scene has ended, Bah added.
The explosion occurred after two vehicles collided on the highway while the fuel tanker was about to enter a nearby filling station to discharge its fuel, the NDMA said in a statement posted to Facebook on Saturday afternoon.
“Footage and eyewitnesses intimated that while the collision took place, both drivers came out of their vehicles and warned community residents to stay off the scene while trying to address a leakage emanating from the collision,” the statement said. It added that while that was happening, “some community members rushed to the scene and took advantage of the leakage to scoop fuel and store it in nearby makeshift structures.”
“In the cause of scooping the fuel, there was a major explosion that resulted in the fire disaster that occurred,” it said.
The NDMA immediately visited the scene and coordinated emergency response with partners. Ambulances were assembled to take corpses and those in critical situations to various hospitals in Freetown.
There have been 92 people admitted to hospitals within Freetown, the NDMA statement said.
Freetown Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr said in a statement on Facebook that she was “saddened to hear about an explosion along Bai Bureh Road, Wellington, after a truck carrying fuel collided with another truck.”
“The video and photo footage making rounds on social media are harrowing,” Aki-Sawyerr added.
“My sympathies go out to the families and loved ones of the victims of the explosion. May the souls of the departed rest in perfect peace.”