TANZANIAN Police said at least 57 people have been killed and 65 others wounded in a fuel tanker explosion in Tanzania.
The explosion occurred on the outskirts of Morogoro, a town about 200km west of the capital Dar es Salaam earlier on Saturday after a crowd had gathered around the tanker, which had crashed.
Many of those killed and injured had been siphoning petrol from the vehicle when it burst into flames, according to police and witnesses.
A video shared on Twitter by ITV Tanzania appeared to show a large group of people carrying buckets and jerry cans towards the tanker, while images from the aftermath appear to show the area around the tanker littered with charred corpses and the burned-out wreckage of motorbikes.
Wilbrod Mutafungwa, police commissioner for Morongo, told reporters that work was ongoing to reach a “conclusive” number of those killed.
“Unfortunately fire broke out and burned a lot of people, a lot of people have lost their lives in this incident,” he said, adding that 57 people have been confirmed dead so far.
Mutafungwa said the dead were mainly drivers of motorcycle taxis – known as “boda-boda” – and residents.
Most of the victims were taken to hospital in Morogoro, although some bodies were still at the accident site, local health official Rita Lyamuya said.
“The situation is really bad. Many people died here, even those who were not stealing fuel, because this is a busy place,” Daniel Ngogo said.
“The fire was huge and it was challenging to rescue victims. I have seen about 65 to 70 people being rescued because the fire was fast spreading across the accident area.”
Incidents of people being killed in explosions while taking fuel from incapacitated tankers are common in East Africa.
At least 50 people were killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in October when a crashed oil tanker caught fire as villagers rushed to collect the leaking fuel.
In May, at least 58 people died in Niger when a tanker exploded. Last month, a similar accident occurred in Nigeria, leaving some 50 dead.