A fuel tanker has exploded near Sierra Leone’s capital, killing at least 98 people and severely injuring dozens of others, after large crowds gathered to collect leaking fuel.

The explosion took place late Friday when the tanker collided with another truck as it was pulling into a gas station near a busy intersection in Wellington, just east of the capital of Freetown, according to the National Disaster Management Agency.

“Both drivers came out of their vehicles and warned community residents to stay off the scene while trying to address a leakage emanating from the collision,” the agency said.

In this deeply impoverished country, however, crowds still rushed in to scoop up fuel, witnesses said.

It was not immediately clear what caused the leaking fuel to ignite but a massive explosion soon followed.

Hospital officials called in as many doctors and nurses as they could overnight to tend to the wounded.

The country’s health care sector is still recovering from the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic, which killed many of the West African nation’s doctors and nurses.

Nearly 100 injured people were taken to hospitals in the area, officials said.

About 30 severely burned victims were not expected to survive, according to hospital staff member Foday Musa.

Injured people whose clothes had burned off in the fire that followed the explosion lay naked on stretchers as nurses attended to them on Saturday.

Video obtained by The Associated Press of the explosion’s aftermath showed a giant fireball burning in the night sky as some survivors with severe burns cried out in pain.

Charred remains of the victims lay strewn at the scene awaiting transport to mortuaries.

President Julius Maada Bio, who was in Scotland attending the United Nations climate talks on Saturday, deplored the “horrendous loss of life”.

People look on at a pile of burnt motorbikes.People look on at a pile of burnt motorbikes.

Sierra Leone’s President and Vice-President have offered their sympathies to the victims. (AFP: Saidu Bah)

“My profound sympathies with families who have lost loved ones and those who have been maimed as a result,” he tweeted.

Vice-President Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh visited two hospitals and said Sierra Leone’s National Disaster Management Agency and others would “work tirelessly” in the wake of the emergency.

Firefighters work next to burnt wreckage.
Firefighters continued to extinguish the wreckage the morning following the explosion. (AFP: Saidu Bah)

“We are all deeply saddened by this national tragedy, and it is indeed a difficult time for our country,” he said on his Facebook page.

Extracted in full from: Scores killed by fuel truck explosion in Sierra Leone – ABC News