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Liberia Tanker Explosion Kills More than 40 and Many Injured

On the night of December 27, 2023, in Totota, Liberia, a gas tanker crashed and exploded, resulting in the loss of at least 40 lives, according to the country’s Chief Medical Officer, Francis Kateh.
Liberia Tanker Explosion Kills More than 40 and Many Injured

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The incident, occurring approximately 130 kilometers from the capital, Monrovia, shows the consequences of poor road safety and weak infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa, making it the world’s deadliest region for road crashes, with a fatality rate three times higher than the European average, as reported by the United Nations.

Late Tuesday evening, a fuel truck careened off the road in Totota, leading to an explosion that killed the lives of many who had rushed to the scene.

Chief Medical Officer Francis Kateh expressed the difficulty in assessing the full extent of the incident, stating that a team was going from home to home to identify the missing individuals. Initial reports from the police suggested a death toll of 15, with at least 30 others sustaining injuries.

After the fuel truck crashed, locals flocked to the scene, seizing the opportunity to collect leaking gas from the tanker.

Some witnesses described individuals climbing onto the truck, attempting to extract fuel, while others resorted to using iron objects to hit the tanker, hoping it would burst open. The driver reportedly informed the crowd that they could take the spilled gas, unaware of the disaster.

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Reports show that people were attempting to collect the leaking gas but were also resorting to extreme measures, such as using screwdrivers to put holes in the tanker.

The scene, captured in video footage, showed a large gathering, including children, around the overturned tanker, with some carrying buckets and jerrycans. The situation became worse when the tanker suddenly exploded.

With dozens of individuals admitted to various hospitals for severe burns. Chief Medical Officer Francis Kateh confirmed that more than 83 people had been hospitalized, and some with more critical injuries were transferred to medical facilities in Monrovia for specialized treatment.

Liberia’s President, George Weah, expressed sympathy for the families of the victims, stating that he found images of the deeply disturbing.

The President pledged his full backing to health authorities, authorizing them to enhance manpower and equipment to aid in the effort to save lives.

According to United Nations figures, the region has become the world’s deadliest for road crashes, with a fatality rate three times higher than the European average.

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The disparity in road safety standards poses a risk to the lives of individuals in the region. United Nations data further illustrates the severity of the road safety crisis in sub-Saharan Africa.

With a fatality rate of 27 per 100,000 inhabitants, the region surpasses Europe’s average of nine and the global average of 18.

Despite having only about two percent of the world’s vehicle fleet, Africa accounts for approximately one-quarter of global traffic deaths.

One witness, Aaron Massaquoi, recounted how people climbed onto the truck to extract gas, using various tools to induce the tanker to burst.

With many lives lost, families devastated, and the local population struggling with the aftermath of the incident.

President George Weah’s commitment to supporting health authorities in their efforts to save lives is a step in addressing the immediate fallout from the explosion.

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