DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (AP) — A damaged tanker truck exploded in eastern Tanzania Saturday as people were trying to siphon fuel out of it, killing at least 62, in one of the worst incidents of its kind in the East African country.
Citing police figures, state broadcaster KBC said a further at least 70 people were injured in the incident early Saturday in the town of Morogoro. Regional police commissioner Steven Kabwe told the local Azam TV that many suffered serious burns.
Tanzanian government spokesman Hassan Abbasi said on Twitter that news of the deaths was “received with sadness.” “We send our condolences to the families, relatives and friends,” he said.
Witnesses in Morogoro, which lies about 120 miles (200 kilometers) from Tanzania’s economic hub of Dar es Salaam, told The Associated Press that scores of people had gathered around the fuel tanker after it was involved in an accident early on Saturday. They said people were trying to siphon away fuel when the tanker burst into flames.
Incidents of people being killed in explosions while stealing fuel from incapacitated tankers are common in East Africa. Those who steal the fuel usually hope to be able to sell it cheaply to motorists.
In 2013, a similarly deadly incident killed at least 29 people on the outskirts of the Ugandan capital, Kampala, as scores swarmed around the scene of an accident.
There is limited awareness among many people about the danger from explosions of damaged fuel tankers, said Henry Bantu, a road safety expert who runs the Tanzania-based Safe Speed Foundation. Local leaders need to do more to educate people on the risks, he said.