The death toll from a petrol tanker explosion in central Liberia has risen to 74, the West African nation’s chief medical officer said Monday.
The new figure is sharply up on the previous toll of 40 dead from the December 26 disaster.
On Sunday, President George Weah declared a national week of mourning for the victims and their families.
The present toll is over 70 that have died,” Francis Kateh, Liberia’s chief medical officer, told AFP on Monday.
There were others that turned to ashes, and so up until now, we are still trying to figure out the toll, he added.
He specified in a message sent later that the death toll had risen to 74.
Witnesses said people had clambered onto the lorry to try to collect petrol leaking from its tank after it crashed and tipped into a ditch along a road in Totota, about 130 kilometres (80 miles) from the capital Monrovia.
Local resident Aaron Massaquoi told AFP at the time that “some people climbed onto the lorry to get petrol. Some of them had iron bars and were hitting the tanker so that it would burst in order to take the petrol.
Around 40 people were killed immediately in the explosion, while others were taken to hospitals for treatment, many of them dying there as a result of their injuries.
Local health officer Cynthia Blapooh told Front Page Africa that the victims included children and at least one pregnant woman.
Liberia is the 10th poorest country in the world, with more than half its five million people living in often dire poverty.
Weah, the former star footballer who has been in power since 2018, will hand over the reins on January 22 to Joseph Boakai following his defeat in the second round of the presidential election in November.