Lit Cigarette Causes Deadly Oil Truck Blast: Officials

More than 100 may have been killed as they siphoned fuel from South Sudan tanker
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 17, 2015 9:51 AM CDT
Officials say local hospitals are overwhelmed with victims from the blast (not shown here).   (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy, File)

(Newser) – Local officials say hospitals in the Western Equatoria of South Sudan are struggling to deal with the dead and wounded after an oil truck exploded yesterday, killing between 85 and 100 people so far and injuring at least 50, the AP and Reuters report. Why there were so many people in the vicinity of the tanker: They were siphoning fuel off of it after the truck careened off the road, a common occurrence in this part of East Africa, which suffers from poorly maintained truck routes that pass through impoverished communities, Reuters notes.

The cause of the blast appears to have been someone lighting a cigarette near the full tanker, which had reportedly started to leak as locals tried to steal fuel, the AP reports. The injured aren't out of the woods, either, per the country's information minister, who tells Reuters, "We don't have medical equipment, and these people may not survive because we do not have the facilities to treat the highly burnt people." Although the country has been embroiled in a civil war for nearly two years, a presidential spokesman says this incident was simply an "accident." (The country's conflict is taking an especially violent toll on women and girls.)

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