PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI- According to local authorities, 60 people have been killed and dozens more wounded in the northern Haitian city of Cap-Haitien after a truck carrying fuel exploded. The authorities have requested additional supplies for the victims, as well as additional staff to assist.
On Monday night, an explosion rocked Haiti’s second-largest city on the country’s northern coast, where survivors yelled in despair as the fire consumed part of their neighborhood .
A local hospital was overburdened with injured people hours after the crash, pleading for basic supplies and more medical staff.
Deputy Mayor Patrick Almonor said on Tuesday that 60 people have perished, adding that authorities were still searching for victims among the charred debris.
The driver of the tanker, according to Almonor, lost control when he swerved to avoid a motorcycle taxi, causing the truck to overturn. People rushed to collect fuel that had spilled on the street, he said.
According to Almonor, more than 100 people were injured in the explosion, which also destroyed about 20 homes nearby. He added that the death toll is expected to rise because people who died in their homes have not yet been accounted for.
“It’s horrible what happened,” he said. “We lost so many lives.”
In the wake of massive fuel shortages and spiraling gas prices in Haiti, gangs have been blocking fuel terminals throughout the country, including the capital, Port-au-Prince.
Following the July assassination of President Jovenel Moise, gang violence and political instability in Haiti have soared. A devastating earthquake struck the country in August, causing the country to struggle with reconstruction.
In the aftermath of the explosion in Cap-Haitien on Tuesday, bodies covered in white sheets lay on the ground before being loaded onto trucks for removal.
Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry said the explosion had left dozens injured.
“Three days of national mourning will be decreed throughout the territory, in memory of the victims of this tragedy that has devastated the entire Haitian nation,” Henry wrote on Twitter on Tuesday morning.
He added that field hospitals would be set up in Cap-Haitien to care for the victims.
A large number of injured patients were transported to Justinian University Hospital nearby.
“We don’t have the ability to treat the number of seriously burned people,” a nurse told the AFP news agency. “I’m afraid we won’t be able to save them all.”
A “critical” situation has been described by Mayor Pierre Yvrose, who has requested additional resources.
“We need human resources, and also material resources, namely, serum, gauze, and anything that can be used in case of serious burns,” Yvrose said.
It was still unclear how many people were injured.
The United Nations in Haiti has offered condolences to the families of the victims and is ready to assist in the response.
Former Prime Minister Claude Joseph also mourned the victims, tweeting: “I share the pain and sorrow of all the people.”
There has never been enough electricity in Haiti to meet the needs of the entire population. Haiti’s state-run electric utility, the Haiti Electric Company, provides only a few hours of power a day, even in well-off parts of the capital.
Pricey generators are the only option available to those who can afford them in the face of severe fuel shortages caused by gangs blocking access to oil terminals.