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Death Toll Continues to Rise in Benin Tanker Explosion


The number of dead from Wednesday's tanker explosion in northern Benin has risen to more than 60, as many of those who were injured have since died.

The accident occurred Wednesday evening, when a tanker truck transporting fuel to the Malian capital, Bamako, overturned in the town of Porga, around 500 kilometers north of Benin's commercial capital, Cotonou.

Local residents had begun siphoning fuel from the wreckage, when the tanker exploded, killing many instantly.

Survivors were brought to the Jean de Dieu Hospital in the nearby town of Tanguieta. Boniface Sambieni is the hospital's director, and spoke on the phone with VOA.

"We are already at the 31st death among the original 80 wounded brought to the hospital," he said.

The hospital was overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster.

"In such situations, there are always things we need," he added. "We are far from the city, and restocking supplies is not easy." But, he says, "We have now received help from the Ministry of Health in the form of material and personnel."

In particular, the hospital was short of drugs to treat burn victims.

Journalist Gerard Guedegbe says the victims of Wednesday's explosion were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"It was a truck that [was] carrying fuel from Cotonou to Bamako that [had an accident], then the population of the region of Porga found the opportunity to get some fuel, and, unfortunately, the fire occurred," he noted.

Guedegbe said the accident was a rare occurrence in Benin, unlike in neighboring Nigeria, where there is a thriving trade in stolen fuel, and deadly explosions are common.

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