At least 84 people were killed and more than 70 injured in Sierra Leone’s largest city on Monday when a fuel tanker exploded after it ran over a child, officials said.
Witnesses and officers at the scene of the blast in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, said the tanker ran over a 12-year-old boy near a checkpoint run by local police and soldiers, while coming to collect a load of fuel from the bus stop. At least 100 people stood around waiting to collect the fuel when the accident occurred, officials said.
Freetown is Sierra Leone’s commercial center.
Sierra Leone’s Public Service Commission said on its website that the “following incident occurred today at a police check point in Kenema on way to Kambia. … A tanker laden with diesel overturned and caught fire. 64 victims have been accounted for including the body of the dead boy.”
In Freetown, residents stood around the bodies, covered with cloth, at the scene on Monday. Many wailed and cried. The back of one man’s body lay on a heap of debris.
“A few youths who were in the area when the accident occurred had gathered around a large truck and the meter boy was fetching some water when the truck suddenly hit him,” public servant Lamin Charpir, who witnessed the event, told The Associated Press.
At least seven of the people killed had their hands tied up and their throats slit, Charpir said.
No one has yet been detained for questioning and police have not yet announced a motive for the incident.
Salihu Jabbah, who lost a relative and several relatives in the accident, said the head of the area police was telling his family to leave Freetown, saying the death toll could increase to about 200. “We don’t believe him,” Jabbah said.