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Maputo Tragedy: Mozambique Declares Days of Mourning Tanker Victims

Authorities in Mozambique were yesterday investigating whether locals were taking petrol from a tanker that exploded in the country’s west ...

Authorities in Mozambique were yesterday investigating whether locals were taking petrol from a tanker that exploded in the country’s west killing at least 56 people and injuring more than 100.

Officials had originally put the death toll at 73 following the massive blast on Thursday in Tete province, in the country’s remote western region near Malawi.

The tragedy occurred on a day when Tete province registered a maximum of 37 degrees Celsius.

By yesterday morning, officials had counted 56 bodies in mortuaries as searching continued and three days of national mourning were announced. National mourning will be from today until Monday.
A Child Burnt in the Fire Arrives for Medical Attention 

“In the accident, 108 people were injured, 96 of whom are still being kept in for treatment at Tete Provincial Hospital,” government spokesperson Mouzinho Saide said at a press conference in Maputo.

“The cabinet has created a commission of inquiry to investigate the circumstances, causes and responsibilities for this accident.”

According to Xinhua news agency, the commission is headed by Minister of State Administration and Civil Servants Carmelita Namashulua, Minister of Transports and Communications Carlos Mesquita, deputy minister of health Mouzinho Saide and director of the Institute for Disaster Management Osvaldo Machatine.

The commission was expected to land in the Tete province, where the explosion happened, yesterday. Authorities suggested that residents may have been taking petrol after the vehicle had crashed or been abandoned by drivers who fled when they feared it could explode.

Xinhua news agency quotes police provincial commandant Fabiao Nhancoloco saying: “All happened because the driver of the truck belonging to a Malawian company abandoned the road NR7 to the interior of the community, in the process of stealing fuel, the truck overheated and exploded.”

Photographs from the hospital in Tete showed badly burned children arriving for emergency care.

“Of the people brought in, we have two pregnant women, 17 children, and a total of 45 severe injuries, with cases of third-degree burns,” Jose Mendonca, Tete provincial government spokesman, told reporters late Thursday.

Hospital staffing has been reinforced to help deal with the large numbers of injured. “We do not yet have a definitive idea about the original source of the fire,” said Mendonca.

One local journalist told AFP the truck had crashed on Wednesday and exploded on Thursday afternoon as scores of people tried to syphon off fuel. The Tete provincial government has appealed for emergency food aid and transport assistance for affected families.

News24, a South African news agency reported that Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi pledged support for the families of the victims. President Nyusi said yesterday that “tragedy has knocked on our door once again” in Tete province, where the accident happened.

President Nyusi was recalling a 2015 incident in Tete in which about 70 people died after drinking contaminated beer. He said aid efforts must be “flexible” following the tanker fire in the town of Caphiridzange, according to the Portuguese news agency Lusa. – News Agencies

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