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At least 50 killed in Haiti gas tanker explosion

By AFP
14 December 2021   |   3:43 pm
At least 50 people were killed when a gas tanker exploded in the Haitian city of Cap-Haitien on Tuesday morning, according to a local official, with overwhelmed local medics saying the toll was feared to rise.

People stand at the site of an explosion in Cap-Haitien, Haiti December 14, 2021, in this still image obtained from Reuters TV footage. Reuters TV/via REUTERS

At least 50 people were killed when a gas tanker exploded in the Haitian city of Cap-Haitien on Tuesday morning, according to a local official, with overwhelmed local medics saying the toll was feared to rise.

Deputy Mayor Patrick Almonor, who visited the site of the blast, said he had seen more than 50 badly burned bodies, while Prime Minister Ariel Henry had estimated the death toll at around 40 in an earlier tweet.

Almonor said the victims he saw had been “burned alive,” adding: “It is impossible to identify them.”

According to Almonor, the tanker is believed to have flipped over after the driver lost control while swerving to avoid a motorcycle taxi.

Fuel spilled onto the road and pedestrians apparently rushed to collect the tanker’s gas, which is in short supply as Haiti grapples with a severe fuel shortage caused by the tightening grip of criminal gangs on the capital Port-au-Prince.

Almonor said around 20 houses in the area were also set ablaze by the explosion, but that no details were yet available on possible victim numbers inside the homes.

Nearby Justinien University Hospital was overwhelmed with patients as the injured were transported to the facility.

“We don’t have the ability to treat the number of seriously burned people,” a nurse told AFP.

“I’m afraid we won’t be able to save them all,” she said.

The Haitian prime minister decreed a period of national mourning following the explosion he said left “around 40 people” dead and dozens injured.

“I learned with sadness and emotion the terrible news of the explosion of a gas tanker last night in Cap-Haitien,” Henry tweeted.

“Three days of national mourning will be decreed throughout the land, in memory of the victims of this tragedy which has devastated the whole Haitian nation.”

Henry promised field hospitals would be rapidly deployed to help care for the blast victims.

Fuel crisis
The Caribbean nation has never produced enough electricity to meet the needs of the whole population. Even in well-off parts of the capital, the state-run Haiti electric utility only provides, at most, a few hours of power a day.

Those who can afford it rely on pricey generators, which are no help in the face of the severe fuel shortage caused by gangs blocking access to the country’s oil terminals in the capital and its outskirts.

In recent months more than a dozen vehicles transporting fuel have been attacked by gangs demanding ransoms for the drivers’ release.

Demonstrators took the streets as recently as Monday protesting the increase of the resulting rise in gasoline prices.

The lack of fuel is also damming up water access, in a country where many people rely on private companies to deliver water by truck to at-home systems.

And with no guarantee of steady power or water supply, health care providers have been forced to drastically cut back their services.

Haiti is also dealing with the aftermath of the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July.

Cap-Haitien, located on the northern coast, is the country’s second-largest city.

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