MOROGORO, TANZANIA: Fifty-seven people perished in Tanzania on Saturday when a fuel tanker exploded after overturning on a road west of the country’s economic capital Dar es Salaam, police said.
The disaster took place near the town of Morogoro, with police saying the blast may have been sparked by a cigarette as people rushed to collect leaking fuel from the stricken truck.
“There was a huge blast which has so far killed at least 57 people,” regional police chief Willbrod Mtafungwa told reporters.
Witnesses told AFP by telephone that they saw the charred remains of a number of motorcycle taxis and trees scorched by the power of the explosion.
Mtafungwa said the dead were mainly drivers of the taxis known as “boda-boda” and local residents flocking to the scene for the fuel after the tanker crashed.
Police later announced the blaze had been brought under control.
“The Morogoro region had never experienced a disaster of such magnitude,” Morogoro governor Stephen Kebwe told reporters at the scene in the locality of Msamvu, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) west of Dar es Salaam.
He said the tanker truck overturned on the roadside and the “fuel began to flow freely”.
“We have mobilised all the doctors at the Morogoro regional hospital so the wounded can be treated,” he added, without giving the number of injured.
Such disasters are not uncommon in Africa.
Last month, at least 45 people were killed and more than 100 injured when a petrol tanker crashed and exploded as people gathered fuel.
In May, a similar incident occurred in Niger just a short distance from the airport in the capital Niamey, leaving almost 80 people dead.
Among the deadliest such disasters, 292 people lost their lives in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in July 2010, and in September 2015 at least 203 people perished in the town of Maridi in South Sudan.