At least 62 people were killed in a tanker explosion early Tuesday in Haiti, according to a new toll from a tragedy that also left 48 injured, many of them in critical condition.
The tragedy occurred in Cap-Haitien, the second city in this Caribbean country that has been hard hit by security and economic crises as well as natural disasters.
According to Patrick Almonor, the deputy mayor of Cap-Haitien, the tanker’s driver was trying to avoid hitting a taxi, and thus lost control of his car, which overturned.
The residents then rush to the truck, despite the driver’s warnings, to retrieve the fuel that Haiti sorely lacks, before they are largely killed in the explosion.
Al-Munawar said rescue operations, which are still underway, have already counted 62 casualties.
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced on Twitter that he was going there “accompanied by members of his government and a large number of doctors and paramedics.” He also issued a decree of three days of national mourning “in memory of the victims of this tragedy that grieves the entire Haitian nation.”
The deputy mayor stated that about 40 houses around the site of the explosion were on fire after the explosion, raising fears of greater casualties.
“We have not yet been able to give details of the number of victims inside the homes,” he said.
It may take some time to identify the victims as well. “It is impossible to identify them” at present because of their burns, Al-Munawar said.
“not the means”
Health services, overwhelmed, were trying to deal with an influx of patients who needed urgent care.
“We don’t have the means to care for the many seriously burned patients,” a nurse from Justinian Hospital, where many of the wounded were taken, told AFP. “I’m afraid we won’t be able to save them all.”
“More than 60% of their body surface has been burned,” said Dr. Calhill Toren, who counted 40 seriously injured people and two people who died at this hospital.
In the face of the emergency, the Prime Minister announced the deployment of field hospitals “to provide the necessary care to the victims of this terrible explosion.”
Haiti, a poor Caribbean country, suffers from severe fuel shortages due to gangs controlling part of the refueling circuit.
In recent months, armed gangs have significantly consolidated their control of Port-au-Prince, taking control of the roads to the country’s three oil terminals.
The gangs kidnapped more than 12 cars to transport fuel and demanded a large ransom in exchange for the drivers’ release.
What arouses strong resentment among the population; Haiti was also the scene on Monday of demonstrations against the increase in gasoline prices.
Since October, communications networks and the media have reduced their activities across the country, because they cannot find fuel for the thermal generators that supply the antennas with electricity.
This energy crisis is also hampering the functioning of a few hospital structures across the country.