HomeLocal NewsPetrol tanker explosion kills three people

Petrol tanker explosion kills three people

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Kumbirai Jakarasi Runatsa (19), a three-month pregnant woman who had just tied the knot over two months ago, rushed to the scene on hearing that a fuel tanker had overturned and spilled petrol near her Sunningdale home in Harare on Saturday evening.

But little did she know death was beckoning.
She dashed to the scene, at the corner of Boshoff Drive and 2nd Road, where scores of other residents had gathered, in the company of her brother and sister-in-law. Like other curious residents, they also wanted to witness the accident.

“When we were there, the driver continuously pleaded with people who were collecting fuel to stop, warning the tanker would soon burst into flames.

“I told my two sisters-in-law (Runatsa and Shamiso Nyahunzvi) that we should leave and I handed over my phone to her,” said 17-year-old Abraham Marizani, her brother-in-law.

“When I was some metres away, the tanker burst into flames and I rushed back to the scene only to be confronted by a huge ball of fire.

“I located Shamiso, but none of us knew where Runatsa was. We tried to phone her on the cellphone I had given her, but the call was not going through. Then we thought she was watching the goings-on from a distance.

“We only realised that she had died around 9:30pm when the fire had been put out. She was burnt badly.

She was apparently standing in a pool of petrol about 10 metres away from the tanker when it burst.”

Runatsa is one of the three people who died on the spot in the tragedy. Her grief-stricken husband was in a state of shock and could not even accept condolences from the NewsDay crew.

He was continuously sobbing with his eyes closed throughout the interview alongside his younger brother, Abraham, at the family home.

Thirteen people, mostly Sunningdale residents, were rushed to Harare Central Hospital after sustaining serious burns.

NewsDay could not establish the condition of the injured persons as the hospital acting chief executive officer Dr George Vera, the only official authorised to comment or permit visitors into the ward where they are admitted, was not available.

There were reports that several people, some of whom were said to have been on top of the tanker, stealing petrol, could have been burnt to ashes.

Harare police spokesperson James Sabau said investigations were still in progress to ascertain the death toll.

“I can confirm three people are dead and 13 others sent to hospital. We are investigating reports that more people could have been killed and we are calling on those with missing relatives to report to the police.”

Tinashe Magadu (25) said the incident left the Sunningdale community shell-shocked.

“Even a commuter omnibus which was parked about 100 metres away, was reduced to a shell.

“Another car, which was about 70 metres away caught fire after flames followed a trail of the flowing fuel. Balls of fire were going several metres into the sky. It was very huge,” said Magadu.

“Unfortunately, people did not heed the advice from the tanker driver. He warned people about the possibility of the tanker bursting, but no one took heed.”

The Harare fire brigade arrived at the scene and had difficulty putting the fire out.

They managed to do so after about two hours.

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