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Mass burial today for 115 victims killed in Sierra Leone tanker explosion

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They will be buried in the same cemetery as victims of the 2017 landslide

The 115 people killed in Friday’s massive fuel tanker explosion in Sierra Leone are being buried in a mass ceremony in the capital, Freetown.

Many of the dead were burnt beyond recognition after fuel leaked before catching fire at a busy junction.

The authorities have also made an urgent appeal for blood donations to treat more than 100 burn victims admitted to hospitals.

Officials say that blood supplies might run out in the next 72 hours.

Those being buried on Monday will be laid to rest in the same cemetery as some of those who died in the 2017 mudslide that killed some 1,000 people in the city, says local journalist Umaru Fofana.

A health ministry spokesman has confirmed that the number of known deaths has risen to 115.

President Julius Maada Bio has declared three days of national mourning for Friday’s disaster and ordered flags to be flown at half-mast.

Mr Bio also said that a task force would be set up to look into the tragedy, and make recommendations on how to avoid similar incidents.

Most hospitals in the West African nation have been stretched thin by the accident because of the growing medical needs and also because the sector has not fully recovered from the 2014 Ebola pandemic.

The World Health Organization has despatched 6,000 tonnes of medical supplies to help treat the victims.

‘The fire had burnt all his clothes’

Mayeni Jones, BBC News, Freetown

A pungent smell of burnt rubber and metal hangs in the air, a haunting reminder of the tragedy that happened here on Friday night.

At a nearby local bar, a popular spot to hang out, ashes still smoulder.

Close by a couple of firefighters walk around talking to residents and business owners gathered in small groups, many of them still stunned in disbelief by what happened here, unable to comprehend their losses.

Businesses that once stood as a symbol of hard work are no more. Friends and colleagues whose presence was assured are gone forever.

Bar owner Mohamed Lamin Mansaray watched one of his employees, nicknamed Eddy Boy, walk out of the blaze.

The fire had burnt all his clothes. “He asked me for water,” he says. “He wanted to drink.” Eddy Boy later went to a local hospital to have his burns treated. “Unfortunately he didn’t make it. He passed away.”

What happened on Friday night?

The explosion is believed to have happened at a junction outside the busy Choithram Supermarket in the densely populated Wellington suburb in the east of the city at around 22:00 GMT on Friday.

Sierra Leone’s National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) said the vehicles collided when the tanker was entering a nearby filling station to discharge its fuel.

The drivers, noticing a leak, left their vehicles and warned people to stay away. The explosion occurred when people tried to collect the fuel, the NDMA said.

One report said a bus was completely burnt, while nearby shops and market stalls were caught up in the flames.

The port city of Freetown, which is home to just over a million people, has faced several serious disasters in recent years.

In March, more than 80 people were injured after a major fire in one of the city’s slums left more than 5,000 people displaced.

And in 2017 over 1,000 people were killed after heavy rains led to a mudslide that swept through the city, leaving around 3,000 people homeless.

Source: BBC

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