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Death toll from Tanzania fuel tanker explosion rises to 82

media Police tape cordons off the area where the carcass of a burnt out fuel tanker is seen along the side of the road following an explosion on 10 August, 2019, in Morogoro, Tanzania. STRINGER / AFP

The death toll from a fuel tanker that overturned and exploded on Saturday on a highway 200 kilometres west of the biggest city, Dar es Salaam, has risen to 82, hospital authorities said Wednesday.

"We are continuing to fight as best we can to save those still alive," National Hospital in Dar es Salaam spokesman, Aminiel Aligaesha, told reporters Wednesday.

There are 32 people still being treated, including 17 in intensive care.

Police reports said a vehicle was travelling on a highway in the Morogoro coastal region, when it overturned about 7am local time last Saturday.

Witnesses said that hundreds of people on motorcycles rushed over to fetch fuel from the stricken tanker. When one of them attempted to remove its battery, a huge explosion was triggered, burning everything in the vicinity.

The highway from the capital Dar es Salaam through Morogoro is an important transit route for transporting goods from Tanzanian ports to neighbouring landlocked countries such as Rwanda, Burundi, the DRC, Zambia and Uganda.

President John Magufuli expressed his horror over the blast. “I am very sorry to hear the deaths of our fellow Tanzanians in an accident in Morogoro. Much condolence to everyone concerned especially the families of the dead," he said in a statement.

Smoke billows into air following an explosion of a fuel tanker in Morogoro, Tanzania, 10 August, 2019. REUTERS TV

Magufuli also warned that some tankers contain very dangerous fuel. "There are tankers containing chemical poison, trucks with explosions, etc. I appeal to you to stop this [collecting spilled fuel].”

Opposition leader Freeman Mbowe said the government needed to "educate the citizens about the effects of fetching fuel from tankers".

But for local reporter Erick Nampesya, it is very difficult to avoid such accidents. “I have never seen where a fuel tanker gets accident and people don’t fetch fuel. The same cases have happened in DRC, Nigeria and many other countries”, he wrote on social media.

Zitto Kabwe the leader of ACT-Wazalendo opposition party, also issued a statement: “This is very sad news from Morogoro. It is a huge
catastrophe for our country. My heart is very sorrowful for the death of tens of Tanzanians burnt by fuel-fire”.

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