At least 50 killed in Congo tanker truck fire

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - METRO | STATE - BY SALEH MWANAMILONGO As­so­ci­ated Press

KIN­SHASA, CONGO — At least 50 peo­ple were killed and more than 100 were badly burned when a tanker truck in Congo col­lided with an­other truck and, as vil­lagers rushed to col­lect the leak­ing fuel, burst into flames, wit­nesses and of­fi­cials said Sat­ur­day.

Faced with one of the coun­try’s dead­li­est traf­fic ac­ci­dents, Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila or­dered three days of na­tional mourn­ing “in this par­tic­u­larly painful mo­ment for the Con­golese peo­ple.”

The ac­ci­dent oc­curred overnight in the vil­lage of Mbuba, not far from Kisantu city and about 124 miles south­west of the cap­i­tal, Kin­shasa. The city is on the main high­way be­tween the cap­i­tal and the coun­try’s Matadi sea­port.

The fire quickly spread to nearby homes, Congo’s health min­istry said in a state­ment. An in­ves­ti­ga­tion was un­der­way into the cause of the ac­ci­dent.

A photo tweeted by the min­istry showed the black­ened tanker, its front bumper torn aside and its wind­shield miss­ing.

“The driver of the tanker truck has dis­ap­peared while the driver of the trac­tor trailer died at the scene,” the min­istry said. Twenty charred bod­ies had been re­cov­ered, and four other peo­ple died af­ter ar­riv­ing at a hos­pi­tal.

“The toll con­tin­ues to evolve,” the state­ment said.

The in­terim gov­er­nor of Kongo-Cen­tral prov­ince, Atu Matubuana, who shared the toll of at least 50 dead, said of­fi­cials were iden­ti­fy­ing the bod­ies in prepa­ra­tion for burial.

Pho­tos posted on­line by a lo­cal jour­nal­ist showed some of the in­jured, their skin raw from burns, piled into the back of a pickup and squeezed be­tween peo­ple on a mo­tor­bike as they sought aid.

“See un­der what con­di­tion­s­they are trans­ported ,” the ac­tivist group LUCHA, which in English is known as Fight for Change, said of the photo in a Twit­ter post. “You can guess un­der what con­di­tions they will be ‘treated.’ Shame­ful and re­volv­ing in the 21st cen­tury!”

As the coun­try’s health and trans­port min­is­ters ar­rived, am­bu­lances and mo­bile clin­ics rushed to the scene.

The U.N. peace­keep­ing mis­sion in Congo said it had of­fered as­sis­tance for the in­jured, with nine am­bu­lances en route to help with med­i­cal evac­u­a­tions.

Congo’s mil­i­tary was send­ing oth­ers, the health min­istry said. Al­ready 20 of the in­jured had been evac­u­ated to the cap­i­tal, it added.

Deadly traf­fic ac­ci­dents are com­mon in Congo, where roads and other in­fra­struc­ture in the vast coun­try are of­ten poorly main­tained.

In 2010, more than 200 peo­ple were killed when a tanker truck over­turned and burned in South Kivu prov­ince at the other end of the coun­try.

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