Nearly 180 people were killed and scores injured when a fuel truck overturned and burst into flame in Maridi County in South Sudan, officials said Thursday.
County officials said soldiers, women, children, and boda-boda riders rushed to where the fuel tanker overturned on Wednesday evening, around 20 kilometers outside the town of Maridi, in the south of the country, to try to soak up fuel with rags or collect it in jerry cans.
County sub-chief Mariam Tito said the leaking truck exploded in a fireball when soldiers fired their weapons to try to disperse the crowd. Tito said the soldiers wanted to have the fuel for themselves. She said the soldiers died in the explosion.
The death toll was initially put at around 60 but continued to rise through the night and Thursday to reach 176, according to County Commissioner William Thomas Yanga.
Sub-chief Tito said the hospital in the town of Maridi has struggled to handle the huge influx of victims, many of whom sustained serious burns.
Maridi diocese's Episcopal bishop, Justin Badi, said some of the more seriously injured victims may be evacuated to the capital, Juba.