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Sierra Leone Mourns Victims of Fuel Tanker Explosion

FILE - Coffins of explosion victims are lined up in Freetown, Sierra Leone November 8, 2021.
FILE - Coffins of explosion victims are lined up in Freetown, Sierra Leone November 8, 2021.

Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio vowed to find the causes of Friday’s fuel tanker explosion in Wellington, Freetown, that killed more than 100 people and left scores injured.

Bio announced the formation of a presidential task force to investigate.

Bio, the vice president, government ministers, and bereaved families attended a mass burial this week during a three-day mourning period.

Information Minister Mohamed Raman Swaray told VOA that the president "reiterated his condolences to the bereaved families and his government's commitment to continue to provide psychosocial care, (and) to undertake the payment of all medical bills for all."

“The National Disaster Management Agency has been registering and verifying survivors of that incident and those who have been affected,” Swaray said.

The explosion was caused by a collision between a fuel tanker and a lorry that led to a fuel leak. A large crowd gathered to collect fuel and died or were injured in the ensuing explosion.

“It happened in a very populated intersection and in the early hours of the night when many people were returning home from various schedules,” Swaray said.

Local reporter Kelvin Lewis told VOA that the hospital scene was chaotic as triage was set up to assess how badly people were burned.

“People are in hospitals suffering from various degrees of burns," he said.

Mustapha Kabba, manager of the Connaught Hospital in Freetown where a majority of the casualties were taken, said medical staff is straining to treat the injured.

“The patients are responding based on the severity of the injury to the treatment," he said.

Aid agencies. the national blood bank, and drugs companies have donated medicine and blood.

“We are very appreciative of the support we've been receiving from the population, from well-meaning civil unions, from organizations NGOs, and from our health partners in Sierra Leone,” Kabba said,

The World Health Organization in Sierra Leone said the first group of international emergency teams arrived to provide more support as needed.