For an update to this story see: Death Toll Rises to 230 in Congo Tanker explosion.
A government spokesman from the Democratic Republic of the Congo has reported 210 casualties and at least 190 people injured in an oil tank explosion on a national road in South Kivu providence in Sange late Friday. The country’s Minister of Communications, Mende Omalanga, confirmed that at least 5 among the dead were United Nations peacekeepers. The driver escaped unharmed.
The death toll is likely to rise according to the Red Cross officials since the search for victims is continuing. The explosion area is widespread including consuming many homes within the nearby village.
The petroleum tanker was going at an excessive rate of speed attempting to overtake a bus on the road when it overturned, stated a Bukavu police officer. Residents attempted to collect the petro that was spilling from the tanker. It has been suggested that the actual explosion was caused by someone smoking that was trying to collect the fuel. The explosion set fire to the nearby village where most homes are earth and straw constructed.
According to news reports coming out of the area, many of those killed during the explosion were children that had surrounded the area to see the overturned tanker and collect the spilling fluid. The largest group of victims came from those sitting in a nearby cinema near the accident site. Inside people were watching the World Cup matches between the Netherlands and Brazil, and Ghana and Uruguay.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is Africa’s third largest country. On Wednesday they celebrated their 50th anniversary of independence from Belgium. The area is one of the poorest in the world and has been plagued by unrest and war in the last two decades.