FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — An oil tanker exploded near Sierra Leone’s capital, killing at least 92 people and severely injuring dozens of others after large crowds gathered to collect leaking fuel, officials and witnesses said Saturday.
The explosion took place late Friday after a bus struck the tanker in Wellington, a suburb just to the east of Freetown.
The mortuary at Connaught Hospital reported 92 bodies had been brought in by Saturday morning. About 30 severely burned victims were not expected to survive, according to Foday Musa, a staff member in the intensive care unit.
Injured people whose clothes had burned off in the fire that followed the explosion lay naked on stretchers as nurses attended to them Saturday. Hundreds of people milled outside the main gates of the mortuary and near the hospital’s main entrance, waiting for word of their loved ones.
It was not immediately known how many people were undergoing treatment for burns because patients were taken to hospitals and clinics across the metropolitan area.
Video obtained by The Associated Press of the explosion’s aftermath showed a giant fireball burning in the night sky as some survivors with severe burns cried out in pain. Charred remains of the victims lay strewn at the scene awaiting transport to mortuaries.
President Julius Maada Bio, who was in Scotland attending the United Nations climate talks Saturday, deplored the “horrendous loss of life.”
“My profound sympathies with families who have lost loved ones and those who have been maimed as a result,” he tweeted.
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 emergency.
“We are all deeply saddened by this national tragedy, and it is indeed a difficult time for our country,” he said on his Facebook page.