Hundreds die in Congo as fuel tanker explodes

Accident leaves dozens of families homeless, says UN

At least 230 people were killed and more than 196 injured when a petrol tanker flipped over and exploded in eastern Congo late on Friday night.

Some casualties were caught by the explosion as they rushed to siphon leaking fuel from the vehicle, but most died in their houses, as fire engulfed nearby buildings. The Red Cross said that 61 of the dead were children, 36 were women, and that the toll was likely to rise.

The tanker, carrying 49,000 litres of petrol, overturned at high speed near the village of Sange, 20 miles north of the town of Uvira, near the border with Burundi. After the accident, "people came out and tried to siphon the contents of the tanker", said Madnodje Mounoubai, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission, which sent troops to help evacuate the area. "A fire started, and the people trying to siphon the fuel were killed or injured.

He added that a dozen homes had also been destroyed in the blaze. Most people in the area live in thatched huts made of dried leaves and hardened mud. Many of the dead had been watching Ghana's World Cup quarter-final in makeshift cinemas when the explosion happened.

Congo's weak government has difficulty providing even the most basic services, so UN peacekeepers airlifted at least 35 of the wounded to hospital in Bukavu, and others were taken to nearby hospitals by ambulance.

Desire Yuma, a local Red Cross official, said the organisation's workers were still collecting charred bodies from the scene.

It was not clear what sparked the explosion, although residents said someone collecting fuel may have lit a kerosene lamp as darkness fell.

Other officials, as well as the UN-backed station Radio Okapi, reported that the truck had begun its journey in Tanzania. Roads in the area are notoriously bad after years of war and neglect in the vast central African nation.

Villagers across Africa, unable to afford to buy fuel, frequently descend on damaged or disabled oil trucks to collect their leaking cargo, carrying it away in plastic jugs. The worst tragedies have occurred in Nigeria, where thousands have died as crowds have been caught in explosions when they tried to siphon fuel from ruptured or pierced oil pipelines.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Medical & Economic Writer / Consultant

£23000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for a Me...

Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

Beverley James: Accounts Payable

£22,000 - £23,000: Beverley James: Are you looking for the opportunity to work...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower