JUBA: At least 150 people died in South Sudan when a crashed oil tanker exploded as a crowd scooped up spilled fuel, reports said Friday.
Senior local official John Ezkia told South Sudan’s Eye Radio that the initial death toll of more than 85 in Wednesday’s explosion had risen to at least 150, after scores died of burns.
Other badly burned bodies have also been found around the wreckage of the tanker.
The crash and subsequent blast took place on a road some 250 kilometers west of the capital Juba, close to the small town of Maridi.
However, local government director of Maridi, John Saki, told South Sudan’s Gurtong news site the toll could be as high as 176 people.
Doctors have described how they are struggling to cope with limited supplies to treat severe burns, including a lack of painkillers.
Saki described how about a thousand people crowded around the tanker to gather fuel after it crashed on the roadside, with many coming from a nearby school.
“Then an explosion occurred which led to the death of 55 people in the beginning, and has now risen to 176 people — and many others are in critical condition at Maridi hospital,” Saki told South Sudan’s Gurtong new website.
Those visiting the wounded in the hugely overstretched hospital in Maridi described horrific scenes.
“Some people are burned all (over their) legs, some the hands, some the whole body, the back,” one witness told Radio Tamazuj. “They look like a white person.”
Fuel leaks and oil tanker accidents in Africa often draw huge crowds scrambling to scoop up the fuel, resulting in many deaths due to accidental fires.
“Very many” people are dying, a witness told Radio Tamazuj, adding there were not enough drugs to help them.
South Sudan is in the grip of a dire economic crisis sparked by over 21-months of civil war, which has caused rampant inflation and soaring prices of basics, including food and fuel.