At least nine dead in Libya after fuel tanker lorry explodes

Health Ministry in Tripoli says te incident occurred in the central town of Bent Bayya

Casualties from a fuel lorry explosion in Bent Bayya, Libya, are admitted to a hospital in the city of Sebha for treatment. AFP
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A fuel tanker lorry caught fire and exploded in central Libya on Monday, killing at least nine people and injuring 76, authorities said.

The incident occurred in the town of Bent Bayya, according to the Health Ministry in Tripoli.

The ministry did not say how many were killed by the explosion, but Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush said earlier on Twitter that at least five people had been killed.

Pictures posted on the internet by local residents showed a charred lorry and several other hulks on both sides of the road in the Ezwaiya area of Bent Bayya.

Casualties from a fuel lorry explosion are treated at a hospital in the southern Libyan city of Sebha on August 1, 2022. At least nine people were killed and dozens injured in the blast, which happened when a crowd followed the tanker as it drove to resupply a petrol station in the town of Bent Bayyah.  AFP

Three medical sources told AFP that five burnt bodies were found, either inside or near vehicles, and said that the death toll was expected to rise because there were serious injuries to other victims.

It was not clear if the driver of the vehicle was among the victims.

“The truck was involved in a traffic accident and overturned,” a security source told AFP.

The state-run Libyan News agency said the tanker overturned before catching fire and exploding.

The agency said residents in the area rushed to collect leaked gasoline despite warnings of possible fire and explosion, causing the high casualty toll. Such incidents occasionally happen in impoverished areas where safety measures are regularly neglected.

The agency put the death toll at seven, citing an unnamed security official, AP reported.

The state-run medical centre in the nearby city of Sebha received at least 50 injured, hospital spokeswoman Halima Al Mahri said.

From there, at least 16 critically injured people were moved to hospitals in the capital, Tripoli, and the eastern city of Benghazi.

The centre posted photos, including graphic images, of people at an emergency ward receiving treatment for burns.

Relatives of people injured in a fuel lorry explosion outside the hospital in the southern Libyan city of Sebha on August 1, 2022. AFP

It was not clear what caused the tanker to overturn and explode.

Libya has suffered a fuel shortage since 2014, when the country was divided by a civil war in which rival factions battled for power after an uprising that toppled longtime leader Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

In many cities, citizens have to wait in long queues, sometimes for hours, to refuel their vehicles.

Libya has Africa's largest proven oil reserves, but chronic corruption and theft for smuggling to neighbouring countries means that the pumps often run dry.

Southern Libya is particularly affected by poor services and a lack of investment, more than a decade since the overthrow of dictator Qaddafi in a Nato-backed 2011 uprising.

Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, prime minister of the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity, said in a tweet that authorities were “closely following the disaster in Bent Bayya municipality”.

Mr Dbeibah said that instructions were given to transfer the injured to bigger hospitals.

Fathi Bashagha, the other of Libya’s two rival prime ministers, said he ordered an investigation into the incident.

Updated: August 01, 2022, 3:28 PM