HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsThe Sunningdale horror that should not have been

The Sunningdale horror that should not have been


The Saturday Sunningdale horror in which at least three people were killed by raging fire following a petrol tanker explosion made heart-rending reading.

Reports on Sunday said there could be more people dead and that at least 13 were hospitalised.

Some of the casualties were stealing fuel from an overturned petrol tanker while others had gone to the scene to witness the accident.

Bodies found at the scene of the devastation were charred beyond recognition.

The driver of the truck is said to have pleaded with the people to leave the tanker, to go as far away from it as possible, because it would certainly explode.

He told them even the time when it was likely to explode, survivors said in his final warning before he left to save his own skin, the driver told them the tanker would explode in about 20 minutes.

The people did not believe him. They ignored his warnings and continued draining leaking petrol even as they saw the driver leaving the area.

The “lucky” passing motorists reportedly filled their tanks and drove away.

They could have died on the spot too had the tanker exploded while they were stealing the fuel, trying to save a few dollars.

There is no one that does not know how flammable petrol is. If anyone did not, they were told, in fact begged, to heed the dangers of being around an overturned tanker.

Petrol-fed fires are sudden and fierce.

Eyewitnesses said those that were engulfed in the inferno did not even have the chance to scream.

That is how ferocious a petrol-fuelled fire is – but whether it is greed or curiosity, people just will not learn.

The common causes of a fuel-fed fire are punctured fuel tanks, fuel tank tears, separation of the filter pipe, fuel line separation, improper venting or faulty valves, separation of the fuel tank, and hydrostatic burst.

In some cases, an improperly installed muffler exhaust system or filter can ignite and start a dangerous fire.

An overturned fuel tanker is sure to explode and people should run away from such scenes and not go to the tanker, let alone climbing on top of it to rob it of its contents.

There have been numerous similar such horrific incidents across Africa, where crowds gather around fuel tankers involved in crashes, only for the tanker to explode.

At least 230 people were killed when a fuel tanker overturned and exploded in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, unleashing a fireball that tore through homes and cinemas packed with people watching World Cup soccer. Another 196 people were injured.

Some people died while trying to steal fuel leaking from the tanker. Rushing to loot stricken beer or sugar trucks may be fun and fulfilling, but going to rob a fuel tanker is an entirely different ballgame and extremely dangerous.

Two years ago a tanker carrying sulphuric acid crashed somewhere near Murombedzi. Villagers in the area scrambled to collect the leaking fluid, they had no idea what they were stealing.

Tinfuls of the lethal substance were taken into village huts in the stampede.

They were carrying the 20-litre open containers on their heads, acid splashing all over their bodies in the rush to turn back for more.

Later in the night the itching started. The entire village was taken to Murombedzi Hospital. Many of them died.

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