Over 40 killed as gas tanker explodes in Liberia’s Totota

Some locals flocked to the scene and took the leaking gas from the tanker when it exploded.

Motorcycle taxis, called kekeh in Liberia, stand in line waiting to refuel
Motorcycle taxis, called kekeh in Liberia, stand in line waiting to refuel at gas station amid shortages of supplies in Monrovia, Liberia, January 2020 [James Giahyue/Reuters]

At least 40 people have died after a gas tanker exploded in northcentral Liberia, the country’s Chief Medical Officer Francis Kateh said on Wednesday.

Late Tuesday, a fuel truck crashed in Totota, Lower Bong Country, about 130km (80 miles) from the capital, Monrovia – after exploding, the blast killed and injured many who had flocked to the scene.

Kateh told local news on Wednesday that it was difficult to determine the number of victims because some had been reduced to ashes, but he estimates that 40 people were killed in the incident.

“We have our team going from home to home to check those that are missing,” he told the French news agency AFP.

Police had earlier put the death toll at 15 and said that at least 30 others were injured as locals gathered at the scene.

“There were lots of people that got burned,” said Prince B Mulbah, deputy inspector-general for the Liberia National Police.

According to United Nations figures, poor road safety and weak infrastructure have made sub-Saharan Africa the world’s deadliest region for crashes, with the fatality rate three times higher than the European average.

After Tuesday’s crash, some locals took the leaking gas when the tanker exploded, another police officer, Malvin Sackor, said. He added that police were still gathering the total number of injured and killed.

An eyewitness from Totota, Aaron Massaquoi, told AFP that “people climbed all on top of the truck taking the gas, while some of them had irons hitting the tanker for it to burst for them to get gas.

“People were all around the truck and the driver of the truck told them that the gas that was spilling they could take that … but some people were even using screwdrivers to pit holes on the tank”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies