Sierra Leone begins national mourning for fuel tanker victims

Monday November 08 2021

President Julius Maada Bio visits the Emergency Hospital in Freetown, which is treating some of the fuel tanker blast victims. PHOTO | SIERRA LEONE STATE HOUSE


Sierra Leone Monday began three days of national mourning for victims of Friday’s deadly tanker explosion.

President Julius Maada Bio made the declaration on Sunday night in a televised address in which he described the incident that left about 100 people dead and 90 others in hospitals as a national tragedy.

Mr Bio was out of the country when the incident happened but returned home from Britain, where he had been attending the COP26 climate conference. He cancelled a trip to Ghana on Sunday for the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) heads of States summit.

The President visited the victims in hospitals and the site of the explosion in Wellington, an industrial area of the capital Freetown.

“I saw our brothers and sisters who are in extreme pain. They shared with me their anguish and I reassured them of my government’s commitment to continue supporting them during these difficult times,” he said.

He added: “Moments like these bring us closer as a nation just as they have in the past. We will endure, pull through and persist as a nation. Flags shall be flown at half-mast. Prayers shall be said for the deceased and the injured throughout Sierra Leone on Friday 12th November and Sunday 14th November, respectively.”


Medical supplies

The official death toll as of Sunday had risen to 99, with more than 90 others hospitalised, some in critical condition.

President Bio said the Ministry of Health would scale up its responses on medical and psychosocial care for victims and their families.

Foreign medical specialists are expected to jet in to assist local doctors, Health minister Dr Austin Demby said.

The World Health Organisation will airlift emergency medical supplies with the first batch of 6.6 tonnes of equipment and medicines expected in the country in coming days, Dr Demby said.


Meanwhile, the authorities have mounted verification and identification exercises which they say will be followed by a decision to embark on burial of the dead.

Mr Bio promised to set up a presidential task force that will look into the cause of the incident and recommend appropriate actions to avoid future occurrences.