Fifty-five people were killed in the late hours of Sunday night following the explosion of a tanker truck carrying gasoline, a few hundred meters from the Niamey International Airport, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior told AFP.
“The toll of the explosion was 55 dead and 36 wounded. The victims were burned,” the spokesman added. According to witnesses interviewed by an AFP journalist, the truck ran over on the railway tracks as it left town. Onlookers were trying to recover the gasoline that was leaking when the explosion occurred.
“It was a little less than midnight when I got out and saw the truck lying down. People came from all over to get the gas. Then I saw a fire on the side and everything went up in flames,” said a schoolgirl on site Monday morning at AFP.
“There were motorcyclists and people around the truck when the fire started out of nowhere and it went bam. I saw at least 40 deaths,” said a shopkeeper, another witness to the scene.
On Monday morning, the burnt-out truck lying on its side was still visible as police picked up debris and burnt motorcycles on the road. Surrounding houses were affected by the flames.
The explosion occurred on the RN1 road leaving Niamey in a southeasterly direction. A fuel depot, where the truck probably came from, is a few hundred metres away.
Airport operations were not disrupted by the accident.