DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — At least 62 people were killed in Tanzania on Saturday when a crashed tanker exploded while a crowd was trying to siphon off fuel, the police said, in one of the worst accidents of its kind in the East African country.
The state broadcaster KBC, citing police figures, said at least 70 other people had been injured during the explosion in the town of Morogoro, about 120 miles west of the economic hub of Dar es Salaam, the capital.
The regional police commissioner, Steven Kabwe, told Azam TV that many had suffered serious burns.
A government spokesman, Hassan Abbasi, said on Twitter, “We have been saddened by reports of an accident involving a fuel truck in Morogoro, which caught fire and burned several people.”
Witnesses in Morogoro told The Associated Press that scores of people had gathered around the fuel tanker after it was involved in an accident early on Saturday. They said people were trying to take fuel when the tanker burst into flames.
Footage from before the explosion showed a large crowd collecting liquid from puddles in yellow cans after the vehicle crashed. Video from the accident that were circulating on social media showed the charred remains of dozens of young men.
“The situation is really bad. Many people died here, even those who were not stealing fuel because this is a busy place,” Daniel Ngogo, a witness, told Reuters.
“The fire was huge, and it was challenging to rescue victims,” he added. “I have seen about 65 to 70 people being rescued because the fire was spreading fast.”
Episodes of people being killed while stealing fuel from damaged fuel tankers are common in East Africa. There is limited awareness among many residents about the danger from explosions, said Henry Bantu, a road safety expert who runs the Tanzania-based Safe Speed Foundation. Local leaders need to do more to educate people about the risks, he added.
A similarly deadly explosion in 2013 killed at least 29 people on the outskirts of the Ugandan capital, Kampala, as scores swarmed around the scene of an accident.
In 2010, a fuel tanker overturned, caught fire and exploded in the Democratic Republic of Congo, killing more than 200 villagers, some of whom had been trying to gather fuel from the leaking truck, officials in Congo said.
Kenya had a similar tragedy in 2009, when more than 100 people died after an overturned gasoline tanker truck exploded on a highway as looters tried to scoop up the spilled fuel.