Fuel explosion kills 34 in Benin Republic
A devastating explosion in Seme Podji, a border town in Benin Republic, has claimed the lives of at least 34 people.
The tragedy unfolded when a contraband fuel depot burst into flames, casting a dark plume of smoke into the sky and leaving dozens of bodies charred in its wake.
The inferno erupted last Saturday at a warehouse used for storing smuggled fuel in the southern town of Seme Podji, a popular stop for vehicles, motorbikes, and tricycle taxis seeking to refuel.
Fuel smuggling is unfortunately common within the country and along its borders, often leading to incidents like this due to illegal refineries, fuel dumps, and compromised pipelines.
“I am still in shock. We heard people screaming for help. But the intensity of the flames was too much for people to try to approach.
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“I got gas for my motorbike to go do my shopping. I left and barely five meters away I heard an explosion. When I turned around it was all black smoke,” Innocent Sidokpohou, a local carpenter, told AFP.
Benin’s Interior Minister, Alassane Seidou, told reporters a serious fire had ocurred in the town, but did not give details about exactly how it had happened.
“Unfortunately we have 34 deaths including two babies. Their bodies are charred because the cause of the fire is smuggled fuel,” the Minister said.
The minister said another 20 persons were being treated in hospital, including some in serious condition.
“I live not far from the tragedy,” said Semevo Nounagnon, a local bike driver.
“I can’t really give you the cause of the fire, but there is a large gasoline warehouse here and cars, tricycles and motorcycles come from morning to evening,” he added.