The death toll from an oil tanker explosion in South Sudan has jumped to over 182, a local official announced the latest fatalities figure of the incident, saying authorities are transferring some of the injured to “a safe location.” “The death toll has increased to 182 people. However, we are now on the ground evacuating some serious cases to a safe location for medical attention,” said Wilson Thomas Yanga, the commissioner of Maridi county where the blast took place.
Meanwhile, John Sakithat, the local government director of Maridi, stated that many of the injured are currently “in critical condition,” thus prompting the speculation that the death toll might go up even further.
A witness also touched upon the gravity of the fatal blast, saying, “Some people are burned all (over their) legs, some the hands, some the whole body, the back . . .They look like a white person.”
The incident happened on Wednesday after an oil tanker veered off the road and exploded in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria state.
According to reports, people had gathered around the vehicle in an attempt to collect fuel when the tanker went off, thus dramatically increasing the number of casualties.
On Thursday, presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny rejected speculations that the blast might be related to the country’s political strife, saying: “This was an accident.”
South Sudan plunged into violence in December 2013, when fighting erupted between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir and defectors led by his former deputy Riek Machar around the capital, Juba.
The conflict soon turned into an all-out war between the army and the defectors, with the violence taking on an ethnic dimension that pitted the president’s Dinka tribe against Machar’s Nuer ethnic group.
In August, President Kiir and Machar signed a ceasefire agreement aimed at ending the conflict in the landlocked African country.