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35 Killed in Eastern Uganda Fire - 2001-12-07


Police in Uganda said Friday that 35 people have died and 75 are injured after a tanker truck carrying gasoline crashed Thursday and caught fire in eastern Uganda. Police said many people were killed while trying to siphon fuel from the leaking vehicle.

The tanker truck was about 100 kilometers east of the Ugandan capital, Kampala, when it overturned and burst into flames.

Ugandan police spokesman Assuman Mugenyi said the death toll could climb even higher because many of the injured are in critical condition.

Mr. Mugenyi said the police are finding it almost impossible to identify the dead. "There are some bodies burnt beyond recognition. We have a problem right now of identifying the dead, because some of them, bones were just left," he said.

According to Mr. Mugenyi, the tanker was trying to pass another vehicle on a potholed road near the town of Iganya, when it tipped over. A minibus and a truck that had stopped at the scene of the accident were also consumed in the fire.

Mr. Mugenyi said many of those who died were local people who were trying to scoop up fuel pouring from the overturned vehicle. When it caught fire, they were engulfed in the flames.

There have been at least three other accidents involving fuel trucks in Uganda in the last two years. And as in this latest accident, some people were killed trying to siphon fuel from the trucks. Mr. Mugenyi said, although Ugandans have been warned about how dangerous this is, they continue to do it because they want to sell the fuel to make money. "This is a result of poverty. People are poor, and as long as you have poor people, you cannot rule out people committing crime. The criminal behavior remains in them, so they want to find ways of making ends meet. And if they can get some few jerry cans of fuel and sell them, definitely. It means they can buy some few things," he said.

Mr. Mugenyi said a 20-liter jerry can sells for around $10 U.S. in Uganda.

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