At least 50 people were killed and more than 100 sustained burns after an oil tanker collided with a bus on a highway in the west of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to witnesses and officials, villagers had rushed to collect the leaking fuel when it caught fire on Saturday.
“We have about 50 dead and a 100 people have suffered second-degree burns,” Atou Matabuana, the interim governor of Kongo Central region, said.
Officials were preparing to identify the charred bodies and bury them, Matubuana added.
The accident occurred in the village of Mbuba, not far from Kisantu city and about 200km southwest of the capital, Kinshasa. Kisantu is on the main highway between the capital and the country’s Matadi seaport.
Overloaded trucks carrying goods as well as oil tankers regularly ply this highway.
A doctor at the Saint-Luc hospital told AFP that they had taken in many patients “for the most part with second-degree burn injuries.”
“We are trying to help them, we are trying to rehydrate them but sadly there are those who are dying,” Doctor Tresor said.
“Two mobile clinics are evacuating the injured,” he said.
The UN’s Okapi radio said “the flames spread rapidly engulfing nearby houses.”
Matabuana said that the government has “taken measures to take charge of all the victims”.
But photographs on social media showed the injured being transported on motorbikes and private cars. A witness said he had not seen any ambulance at the site.
“No ambulance and no hospital worthy of its name in Kisantu. Preventing this kind of disaster, let’s just not speak about it…” said the pro-democracy movement Lucha (Struggle for Change) in a tweet.
The UN mission in DR Congo, known by its French acronym MONUSCO, said it had sent nine ambulances to the spot to evacuate the injured.
In 2010, more than 200 people were killed when a tanker truck overturned and burned in DR Congo’s South Kivu province. Many of the victims had been trying to collect the leaking fuel when it caught fire.