On late Friday, Nov. 6, Freetown, the capital and the largest city of Sierra Leone witnessed a horrific blast following a collision, leaving at least 99 people killed and over 100 injured cases.
The fatal accident has severely damaged Freetown’s eastern suburb of Wellington, with hundreds of blackened shells of cars and motorbikes holding up traffic.
In a Facebook post, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr—the mayor of the port city—said that among victims, there were people who went to the scene to collect fuel leaking from the shattered vehicle. A post’s revision later removed the reference.
Shortly after the explosion, the video footage spreading online revealed people running through thick smoke clouds as large flames ignited the night sky.
At the chaotic site full of mangled vehicles, Abdul Kabia said that the disaster was too terrible for them to endure. He recalled a lovely lady who had just bought bread before her death. He spoke in tears: “We are all in shock. I can’t get over this grief.”
Brima Bureh Sesay, the head of the National Disaster Management Agency, said in a viral video scene that they had recorded, “We’ve got so many casualties, burnt corpses. It’s a terrible, terrible accident,” he added.
According to deputy health minister Amara Jambai’s interview with Reuters, the injured were treated in hospitals and clinics around the city.
The Freetown health service has been underfunded for years, and the crash has only exacerbated the situation. The system has not recuperated yet from The 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic, which had decimated the country’s medical staff ranks, with 250 deaths.
According to Swaray Lengor, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ program manager, some of the wounded were forced to move to other places, even military hospitals, due to the Connaught Hospital’s overload with droves of patients.
In a text message sent to Reuters, Lengor stated that they sought assistance from NGO partners to provide equipment, medical supplies, and food. He also indicated that the death toll would most likely continue rising.
In a tweet, the WHO (World Health Organization) committed to providing supply and deploying specialists in burn injuries.
In a tweet, President Julius Maada Bio promised that “My government will do everything to support affected families.” He said: “My profound sympathies with families who have lost loved ones and those who have been maimed as a result.”
Tanker accidents are not uncommon in Africa. Previously, Sub-Saharan Africa suffered a similar blast, which killed those who flocked the site to collect spilled fuel, who were struck by secondary blasts.
In 2018, the Democratic Republic of Congo recorded 50 people dead due to a tanker explosion, while Tanzania lost 85 people in a similar disaster the following year.