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Liberia: death toll rises to more than 40 in tanker truck explosion

Liberia: death toll rises to more than 40 in tanker truck explosion
Workers from the Liberian Red Cross and Bong County move the bodies of victims of a tanker   -  
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A leaking tanker truck exploded earlier this week as people gathered to collect gasoline, killing more than 40 people, Liberian authorities said Thursday.

Tuesday's explosion also injured at least 83 people in the town of Totota in the central West African country, according to health authorities.

Many of the dead were buried in a mass grave on Wednesday because their remains were unrecognizable, said Dr. Cynthia Blapook, a health official in Bong County. Health authorities said it was difficult to confirm the exact number of deaths due to the burned state of the bodies.

Liberia's Vice President, Jewel Howard-Taylor, attended the mass funeral. "We didn't expect to start the year this way," Mr Howard-Taylor said.

Health officials said the number of injured could rise because they are not sure everyone has been transported to receive treatment. 

A doctor at a hospital treating the injured urged the Liberian government to deploy a disaster management team and have one in every county to respond to emergencies.

Dr. Minnie Sankawolo-Rocks also appealed to the public to stay away from fuel trucks in the hope of getting much-needed gasoline. Similar fatal accidents have occurred elsewhere in Africa.

“Please, I beg you,” she said. Ms Sankawolo-Rocks said people did not listen to police instructions to move away before the tanker exploded.

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