Freetown, Sierra Leone – Relatives dead and injured since Friday the explosion of an oil tank East of Freetown, Sierra Leone, they have been gathering in the city’s hospitals, searching for their lost loved ones.
Crowds awaited Sunday in Connaught Hospital, in central Freetown, where critically injured people were dispatched.
On one wall were lists – one discarded, another handwritten – of identified patients. One young man asked a pen to write down his phone number next to his brother’s name, saying that he did not know anything about his brother’s condition. One father said his son was in the hospital but was not “badly injured”, and hopes to be taken home soon.
The death toll from the crash on Friday night has risen to 101, according to officials at the National Disaster Management Agency in Sierra Leone. West Africa has declared three days of international mourning.
The blast came after a fuel tanker, which was veering off the busy highway, was hit by a speeding vehicle. After the accident, many people rushed to the front to retrieve fuel from the containers in hopes of using or selling.
Ibrahim Tucker said he visited his sister in the area when the explosion occurred.
“I didn’t see the cause of the fire, I just saw the flames,” he told Al Jazeera.
“I ran away … People were really upset [injured] – people who did not die. Many people have lost their lives and some really need medical attention, many of them. ”
Hassan Kanu, 52, a local worker who was linked to the Red Cross, said he invited them to retrieve the bodies later. “They arrived dressed as if they were fighting Ebola and took their bodies to their car,” he said.
Kanu said people who were near the tank when the explosion occurred “turned to ashes so you can’t identify their faces”.
He also described a motorcyclist who was trying to extinguish a fire that had engulfed him by rushing to a water tank when his bike was on fire. “She is in the hospital [now] and we know not whether he liveth or is dead. The fire was over his body.
Kanu said many people in the area have lost their property due to the widespread devastation.
“Today is a sad day for us and we can’t even afford to have food or food … we need help,” he said.
Most of the victims were women traders who sold small items on the side of the road that often passed by.
“A lot of my friends are missing,” said Aminata Susan Kamara, 27, who sells soft drinks.
He said he heard the sound of cars hitting people before they started rushing forward and called their relatives to come and get fuel.
Like other witnesses, he said the driver of the tank got off, urging people not to leave. At that, they started off on their way home, but from a distance they noticed that a fire had started.
The riots broke out, and Kamara said some of the detainees in the minibuses had died because the conductor refused to release them until they paid them – a story that one witness repeated.
On Saturday, the boys were searching for metal near burning cars and ashtrays that were still smoking. The crowd stood there and watched as some of them called the burnt offering.
The World Health Organization says it is trying to send in firefighters and has sent 6.6 tons of emergency supplies to help those affected.
WHO is collecting special equipment to help #SierraLeone in response to a devastating explosion in Freetown. We are working to send firefighting specialists. We will provide much-needed assistance during this difficult time for the people of Sierra Leone.
– World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) November 6, 2021
Survivors of the attack will have serious long-term needs, including plastic surgery, physiotherapy, and disability counseling, said Colonel Dr Stephen Sevalie, who oversees medical care at 34 Military Hospital, where seven people died after being discharged. approx. 20 were receiving treatment in the former COVID-19 area.
“We have to deal with what we have. We are making plans, ”Sevalie said.
President Julius Maada Bio cut short his trip to the United Kingdom, where he is attending the COP26 climate summit, to return and meet the victims of the tragedy. He inspected the blast site on Sunday morning.
“Let us obey the law,” he told the crowd. “We have lost more than 100 of our brothers at one time and we are now dealing with about 100 survivors in hospitals. Now is the time to come together and avoid the wrong games …
“The tragedy of this country is very painful,” he added in a televised address on Sunday evening as he reassured those affected by the government’s commitment to help them.