Fifty-five people died in Niger‘s capital when an overturned tanker truck carrying petrol exploded as crowds tried to collect spilled fuel.
The blast on the RN1 route near Niamey’s international airport left the burned vehicle’s wreckage, motorcycles and debris scattered over the road. Nearby houses were also damaged by fire.
According to Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum, the death toll from the explosion was 55 with 36 others injured.
“Motorbike riders and people were all around the truck when it exploded all of a sudden,” a local trader said. “I saw at least 40 dead.”
The explosion happened as some residents were trying to siphon fuel from the tanker, which had overturned on railway tracks near the airport, Bazoum wrote on Twitter.
Le bilan provisoire est de :
_ 55 corps calcinés,
_ 37 brûlés évacués vers les centres médicaux
_ 5 véhicules et 25 motos calcinés.
— Mohamed Bazoum (@mohamedbazoum) May 6, 2019
“It was just before midnight when I went out and I saw the truck overturned. People came from everywhere to take gas, then I saw fire on its side and everything burst into flames,” a college student told AFP news agency.
President Issoufou Mahamadou called the explosion a “national tragedy” after visiting a hospital where dozens were wounded, some with serious burns. The death toll was expected to rise as doctors said some were in critical condition.
Niger, a poor West African country, has been trying to stamp out fuel smuggling from neighbouring Nigeria.
Nigeria, a major oil producer, has seen similar deadly accidents and explosions in the past when people try to steal fuel from oil pipelines.