Sierra Leone fuel tanker explosion death toll rises to 108

With dozens of seriously injured in hospitals, National Disaster Management Agency fears fatalities could increase again

The death toll in a fuel tanker explosion in Sierra Leone rose to 108 on Sunday, the National Disaster Management Agency said, as relatives of casualties waited outside hospitals.

An agency representative told The National that the death toll was likely to increase again, with 93 seriously injured patients in hospitals near the scene of the explosion in Freetown, the capital.

"We have badly burnt victims in hospitals struggling for their lives," the representative said.

The explosion happened on Friday night, when an oil tanker collided with a bus as it pulled in to a petrol station in Wellington, a suburb to the east of Freetown.

The tanker exploded, killing and injuring dozens of people in the large crowds that gathered to collect spilt fuel, officials and witnesses said.

Authorities at Connaught Hospital posted the names of people taken for treatment in the hope relatives would be looking for them.

About 30 casualties who suffered serious burns were not expected to survive, said Foday Musa, a member of staff at Connaught Hospital's intensive care unit.

While some awaited news of the injured, others waited for the bodies of the dead.

“I lost my younger brother during the fire incident at Wellington,” said Osman Timbo, who waited at the hospital mortuary.

His brother Mohamed, 13, left home on Friday night to buy bread when the explosion happened.

“When I heard about the explosion I went to the scene, and I saw him lying there, burnt all over. I felt so bad, I loved him so much,” Mr Timbo said.

Hospital officials called in additional staff to tend to the injured.

President Julius Maada Bio, who was in Scotland attending the UN climate summit on Saturday, said on Sunday he cut short all his engagements to return to Sierra Leone.

“I cut short all foreign engagements and the Ecowas [Economic Community of West African States] summit to lead our nation in mourning, visit the wounded and burnt in hospitals, and do all we can do as a nation to support victims and their families,” he said on Twitter.

Updated: November 25th 2021, 12:41 PM