Sierra Leone ‘desperately’ seeks international medical aid after deadly explosion

Sierra Leone Red Cross health workers donned protective suits before a mass burial in Freetown on November 8, 2021, two days after a massive fireball triggered by an oil tanker explosion killed nearly 100 people in the capital of Sierra Leone. Saïdu BAH / AFP

Sierra Leone on Monday asked for international medical aid for its overcrowded hospitals following an oil tanker explosion in the capital Freetown that killed more than 100 people.

“We desperately need medical supplies for critical burn cases,” Dr Moses Batima, deputy director general of the health ministry’s medical supplies agency, told AFP.

He said items such as infusion fluids, wound-dressing materials, bandages and pain relievers were particularly scarce as hospitals had already drawn on supplies.

Batima said some supplies from the World Health Organization had started arriving as well as donations, but that was not enough.

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“We appeal to the international community for help with medical equipment for the most serious cases,” he added, saying hospitals were unable to cope with the workload with a staff working hard since the explosion.

According to the latest data, at least 101 people were killed and 91 others injured in Friday’s blast when a tank truck collided with another truck at a gas station.

Witnesses say most of the victims were street vendors and motorcyclists who were engulfed in flames as they attempted to retrieve the leaked fuel from the tanker before it caught fire.

This photograph shows vehicles set on fire in Freetown on November 6, 2021, following a massive explosion that killed at least 92 people.  Saïdu BAH / AFP
This photograph shows vehicles set on fire in Freetown on November 6, 2021, following a massive explosion that killed at least 92 people. Saïdu BAH / AFP

Thousands of people gathered to mourn amid tight security at the Connaught Hospital morgue where most of the dead were taken. The stench of death hung over the building as relatives of the victims sought to pay them their last respects.

Lists of victims sent to other hospitals have been posted outside the entrance to help relatives navigate to the correct facility.

“We will check the DNA of the victims of all the bodies before burial to build up files on all the dead,” Sinneh Kamara, a forensic official told AFP.

The government has offered some families the option of burying their dead on their own rather than attending a group funeral that was scheduled for later Monday.

President Julius Maada Bio on Sunday declared three days of mourning in the former British colony of 7.5 million people, the corrupt country one of the poorest in the world despite its wealth in diamonds.

AFP