THE death toll in the Tanzanian tanker tragedy has risen to 64 after seven more victims succumbed to serious burn wounds in hospital.
The incident occurred near the town of Morogoro west of the economic capital Dar es Salaam on Saturday when a fuel tanker overturned and then exploded as crowds of people rushed to loot leaking fuel. The leaking fuel spread over a large area and then caught fire trapping as many as 140 people in a sea of flames.
The latest reports from local media outlets stated that the death toll has risen from an initial 57 to 64.
In the aftermath of the explosion and fire the Regional police chief Wilbrod Mtafungwa described a “huge explosion” and said the dead were mainly drivers of the motorcycle taxis known as “boda-boda” and locals who flocked to the scene to loot leaking fuel in jerry cans and buckets.
The scene of the tragedy was strewn with charred bodies and the burnt-out remains of motorcycle taxis scattered on the ground among scorched trees.
The tragedy has also triggered an outpouring of grief across the country, with President John Magufuli and ordinary citizens sending messages of condolences.
Upon receiving news about the tragedy the Chairperson of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), President Hage Geingob sent a message of condolences to President John Magufuli and said that the death of so many people is a loss not only to Tanzania but to the entire SADC.
“On behalf of the SADC Member States and indeed on my own behalf, we wish to express our deepest condolences to President John Magufuli, the Government and the people of the United Republic of Tanzania, and the families of the deceased. This is a loss not only to Tanzania, but to the SADC region as a whole.”
Dr. Geingob said the SADC sympathizes and remains in solidarity with the Government and the people of Tanzania during this painful and sad moment.
According to Capital News in Kenya the explosion was triggered when a man tried to retrieve the truck’s battery while a crowd of people scurried around the truck with buckets and jerry cans to collect the leaking fuel.
President Magufuli said in a statement he was very shocked by the looting of fuel from damaged vehicles. The Tanzanian President urged people to stop the dangerous practice of stealing fuel in such a way, something that is common in many poor parts of Africa.
“There are vehicles that carry dangerous fuel oil, as in this case in Morogoro, there are others that carry toxic chemicals or explosives, let’s stop this practice, please,” the president said.
Last month, at least 45 people were killed and more than 100 injured in central Nigeria when a petrol tanker crashed and then exploded as people tried to loot leaking fuel.
In May, a similar incident occurred in Niger just a short distance from the airport in the capital Niamey, leaving almost 80 people dead.
The deadliest looting of leaking fuel occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo in July 2010 when 292 people lost their lives in one of the the eastern provinces. During September 2015 at least 203 people perished in the town of Maridi in South Sudan under similar circumstances.