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BrkNEWS… Congo fuel truck fire kills 230, many children

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Congo fuel truck fire kills 230, many children

Sange, DR Congo (AFP) – A fuel truck exploded and set fire to a village in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, killing more than 230 people and injuring scores, officials and local residents said Saturday.
Flames engulfed dozens of earth and straw constructed homes as villagers, many of them children, crowded around the tanker after it overturned late on Friday to scavenge its contents.
“People tried to escape but were caught by the fire and reduced to ashes,” said Tondo Sahizira, a 28-year-old teacher at Sange, home to some 50,000 people located around 70 kilometres (40 miles) south of the Sud-Kivu regional capital of Bukavu, close to the border with Burundi.
The flames spread rapidly to a local cinema hall where a crowd had gathered to follow the World Cup football matches being played in South Africa, said Mbaka Munyerere.
“They were taken by surprise and we could not save them,” he said. “It’s terrible!”
Sud-Kivu governor Marcellin Cishambo said: “When we arrived in Sange at about noon, we were already up to 230 dead. In our presence, three more bodies were added. We are therefore at more than 230 dead and 105 injured.”
Desire Kama from the Congolese Red Cross said according to a provisional estimate at 1100 GMT, there were 221 deaths — of whom 61 were children and 36 women — and 214 were injured.
“A tanker truck coming from Tanzania overturned in the village of Sange. There was a crush (of people) and a petrol leak, there was an explosion of fuel which spread through the village,” regional government spokesman Vincent Kabanga told AFP.
Sahizira said the driver of the truck managed to escape from his cab, though injured, and told local people to get away because of the risk of an explosion.
“Petrol began to leak out but instead of fleeing people came to collect the fuel,” he said.
“A few minutes later there was an explosion, flames burst from the truck and spread very quickly.”
Most of the bodies, covered with white shrouds, still lay near the charred skeleton of the truck many hours after the accident.
A woman wailed nearby, screaming: “We have lost our men, our children. I am dead.”
“We are currently mourning our loved ones. We are waiting to bury them, maybe in a mass grave,” said Munyerere.
Helicopters provided by the United Nations mission in the country, MONUSCO, evacuated casualties to hospitals in Bukavu to the north and Uvira to the south after the accident, officials said.
A UN source had told AFP on condition of anonymity that five Pakistani troops were among the dead, but this was denied by MONUSCO’s spokesman Madnodje Mounoubai, who said no UN soldiers were casualties.
A military source in MONUSCO’s command said he had no reports of any victims from the peacekeeping mission and said verification was going on with units present in the zone.
MONUSCO — officially known as the United Nations’ Organisation for Stabilisation in Democratic Republic of Congo — is the world’s largest and most expensive peacekeeping operation with an annual budget of 1.35 billion dollars. Most of its troops are deployed in the country’s volatile east.
The mission, earlier known by its French acronym MONUC, has been present in DR Congo since the end of 1999.
Explosions caused by fuel leaks from tankers after accidents or pipelines that have been punctured by thieves often claim hundreds of lives as locals rush to scoop up fuel.
In October 1998, over 1,000 people died at Jesse, in Nigeria’s southeastern state of Delta, when a pipeline exploded as people tried to steal oil.
In 2000 and 2006 three such accidents killed a total of nearly 600 people, also in Nigeria, while on Friday, the same day as the Sange accident, at least 13 people were killed and nine badly burned when a tanker truck carrying fuel exploded after skidding off the road in the northern Nigerian city of Gombe.

SANGE, DR Congo (AFP) – A fuel truck exploded and set fire to a village in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, killing more than 230 people and injuring scores, officials and local residents said Saturday.Flames engulfed dozens of earth and straw constructed homes as villagers, many of them children, crowded around the tanker after it overturned late on Friday to scavenge its contents.

“People tried to escape but were caught by the fire and reduced to ashes,” said Tondo Sahizira, a 28-year-old teacher at Sange, home to some 50,000 people located around 70 kilometres (40 miles) south of the Sud-Kivu regional capital of Bukavu, close to the border with Burundi.The flames spread rapidly to a local cinema hall where a crowd had gathered to follow the World Cup football matches being played in South Africa, said Mbaka Munyerere.

“They were taken by surprise and we could not save them,” he said. “It’s terrible!”Sud-Kivu governor Marcellin Cishambo said: “When we arrived in Sange at about noon, we were already up to 230 dead. In our presence, three more bodies were added. We are therefore at more than 230 dead and 105 injured.”Desire Kama from the Congolese Red Cross said according to a provisional estimate at 1100 GMT, there were 221 deaths — of whom 61 were children and 36 women — and 214 were injured.

“A tanker truck coming from Tanzania overturned in the village of Sange. There was a crush (of people) and a petrol leak, there was an explosion of fuel which spread through the village,” regional government spokesman Vincent Kabanga told AFP.Sahizira said the driver of the truck managed to escape from his cab, though injured, and told local people to get away because of the risk of an explosion.”Petrol began to leak out but instead of fleeing people came to collect the fuel,” he said.

“A few minutes later there was an explosion, flames burst from the truck and spread very quickly.”Most of the bodies, covered with white shrouds, still lay near the charred skeleton of the truck many hours after the accident.A woman wailed nearby, screaming: “We have lost our men, our children. I am dead.””We are currently mourning our loved ones. We are waiting to bury them, maybe in a mass grave,” said Munyerere.Helicopters provided by the United Nations mission in the country, MONUSCO, evacuated casualties to hospitals in Bukavu to the north and Uvira to the south after the accident, officials said.A UN source had told AFP on condition of anonymity that five Pakistani troops were among the dead, but this was denied by MONUSCO’s spokesman Madnodje Mounoubai, who said no UN soldiers were casualties.

A military source in MONUSCO’s command said he had no reports of any victims from the peacekeeping mission and said verification was going on with units present in the zone.MONUSCO — officially known as the United Nations’ Organisation for Stabilisation in Democratic Republic of Congo — is the world’s largest and most expensive peacekeeping operation with an annual budget of 1.35 billion dollars.

Most of its troops are deployed in the country’s volatile east.The mission, earlier known by its French acronym MONUC, has been present in DR Congo since the end of 1999.Explosions caused by fuel leaks from tankers after accidents or pipelines that have been punctured by thieves often claim hundreds of lives as locals rush to scoop up fuel.

In October 1998, over 1,000 people died at Jesse, in Nigeria’s southeastern state of Delta, when a pipeline exploded as people tried to steal oil.In 2000 and 2006 three such accidents killed a total of nearly 600 people, also in Nigeria, while on Friday, the same day as the Sange accident, at least 13 people were killed and nine badly burned when a tanker truck carrying fuel exploded after skidding off the road in the northern Nigerian city of Gombe.

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