Sierra Leone oil tanker explosion kills at least 99 people in capital as president mourns 'horrendous loss of life'

Sierra Leone oil tanker explosion kills at least 99 people in capital as president mourns 'horrendous loss of life'

At least 99 people have been killed after an oil tanker exploded near Sierra Leone's capital, with the country's president mourning the "horrendous loss of life".

More than 100 victims were taken to hospitals and clinics across the city, deputy health minister Amara Jambai said.

A staff member at Connaught Hospital said 30 severely burned casualties were not expected to survive.

Nurses attended to injured people who lay naked on stretchers, their clothes having been burnt off by the blast.

The explosion took place early on Saturday after a bus struck the tanker in Wellington, a suburb of the capital.

Police were at the scene to assist disaster management officials as charred remains of victims lay on the ground awaiting transport to mortuaries.

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President Julius Maada Bio, who is in Glasgow for the COP26 climate talks, 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.

Victims included people who had flocked to collect fuel leaking from the ruptured vehicle, said Freetown Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, adding that the extent of the damage was not yet clear.

The aftermath of the oil tanker explosion.

A bus struck the tanker in Wellington.
Scores of people have previously been killed in Sub-Saharan Africa after gathering at the sites of tanker lorry accidents to collect spilled fuel and being hit by secondary blasts.

A tanker explosion in Tanzania killed 85 people in 2019, while about 50 people died in a similar disaster in Democratic Republic of Congo in 2018.

The head of the country's National Disaster Management Agency, Brima Bureh Sesay, said: "We've got so many casualties, burnt corpses.

Julius Maada Bio, President of Sierra Leone, speaks during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain, November 2, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/Pool
Image:
Julius Maada Bio deplored the loss of life
"It's a terrible, terrible accident."

Vice President Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh visited two hospitals overnight and said Sierra Leone's National Disaster Management Agency and others would "work tirelessly" in responding to the emergency.

"We are all deeply saddened by this national tragedy, and it is indeed a difficult time for our country," he said.

Alexa Phillips