At Least 220 Dead in Congo Oil Explosion
July 6, 2010
The Associated Press reports a tanker truck hauling fuel on a rural eastern Congo highway overturned, gushing oil and exploding in a massive fireball that killed about 220 bystanders, officials and witnesses said. The Red Cross said at least 61 children and 36 women were among the dead. Witnesses said dozens of people had descended on the truck to siphon fuel illegally from the wreckage with cans and plastic buckets, apparently unaware of the danger. U.N. peacekeepers rushed to evacuate more than 200 wounded from the scene by helicopter and ambulance, while Red Cross teams carried the charred bodies from the scene in body bags and buried them in two mass graves a few miles away. The truck overturned as it was trying to pass a minibus near the village of Sange, around 20 miles north of Uvira, said Mana Lungwe, manager of the Congolese oil company that owns the truck. The vehicle began gushing oil, then burst into flames an hour later. Lungwe said the driver was injured in the accident and taken to a local clinic before the blast occurred. In Sange, the remains of the tanker lay tipped on its side, one small flame still leaping from the outside of the wrecked fuel container. Along the side of the road a few yards away, the remains of three wood and brick shacks smoldered where hundreds of people had gathered to watch the World Cup. The explosion took place in between matches, as people were watching television and milling outside. Mounoubai said the truck overturned around dusk and was carrying fuel from Bukavu to Uvira. Lungwe, the truck''s owner, said the tanker had begun its journey in the Kenyan city of Eldoret, and then traveled through Uganda and Rwanda before heading into Congo.