Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Tamba Koijee has sent his condolence to his counterpart, the Mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr for the 99 people were killed and more than 100 injured in the capital of Sierra Leone late on Friday when a fuel tanker exploded following a collision, local authorities said.
Emergency crews worked to clear the scene on Saturday in Freetown’s eastern suburb of Wellington where a burnt body and the blackened shells of cars and motorbikes blocked the road following the crash, a Reuters reporter said.
In a tweet, Mayor Koijee stated that hearts of the people of Monrovia are out to their neighbors in Freetown for the “terrifying news of the passing of at least 98 persons”, according to international media reports.
“Mayor of Freetown and the beloved people of Sierra Leone, we like to express our deepest sympathy to you all and pray that #God continues to guide you and help you take courage as you go through this tragedy.
We will continue to keep you all in our prayers!” Mayor Koijee tweeted on Sunday Morning, November 7, 2021.
The Deputy Health Minister of Sierra Leone, Amara Jambai told international media that the wounded were treated in hospitals and clinics across the capital.
Victims included people who had flocked to collect fuel leaking from the ruptured vehicle, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Mayor of the port city, said in a post on Facebook, although that post was later edited to remove the reference.
Videos shared online shortly after the explosion showed people running through clouds of thick smoke as large fires lit up the night sky. Reuters was not able immediately to verify the images, but witnesses described the horror.
“We are all in shock. A lady I had just bought bread from died. A lovely woman. I can’t get over this grief,” said Abdul Kabia, crying at the crash site surrounded by mangled vehicles.
The crash provided a major challenge for Freetown’s health service already creaking from years of underfunding. The 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic gutted the country’s ranks of medical staff, 250 of whom died, and the system has not recovered.
Connaught Hospital was overwhelmed with the influx of patients, so some of the injured were moved to other locations, including a military hospital, said Swaray Lengor, a programme manager at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The death toll would likely rise, he said.
The World Health Organization said it would send supplies and deploy specialists in burn injuries.
“We will provide more support as needed at this terrible time for the people of Sierra Leone,” it said on Twitter.
Accidents with tanker trucks in Sub-Saharan Africa have previously killed scores of people who gathered at the site to collect spilled fuel and were hit by secondary blasts.
In 2019, a tanker explosion in Tanzania killed 85 people, while around 50 people were killed in a similar disaster in Democratic Republic of Congo in 2018.