Death Toll In Haiti Truck Explosion Rises To 66

(AFP) — Four people injured in a massive gas truck explosion in Haiti have died, bringing the death toll from the accident to 66, officials said Wednesday.

Tuesday’s blast in Haiti’s second largest city of Cap-Haitien was the latest disaster to hit the poverty-wracked Caribbean nation, riven by gang violence and political paralysis.

The truck is believed to have flipped over after the driver lost control while swerving to avoid a motorcycle taxi. Most of the deaths occurred when passers-by rushed to collect the escaped fuel, a rare commodity amid severe fuel shortages.

Some 50 people were injured in the blast, according to authorities, and many of them were in critical condition.

Read: Gasoline truck explodes in northern Haiti; dozens killed

Patrick Almonor, deputy mayor of Cap-Haitien, told AFP that four of the injured have died, adding that the toll was still preliminary and could rise as officials inspect several hospitals where the victims had been taken.

Almonor described a horrific scene, saying he had seen dozens of people “burned alive” and that it was “impossible to identify them”.

Surrounding buildings were burnt and scarred in the explosion.

– Fuel shortages –

“Following this accident, civilians took the chance to collect the gas by filling up makeshift receptacles — causing a terrible explosion that led to numerous victims and major material damage,” civil protection director Jerry Chandler told AFP.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry visited the scene of the tragedy on Tuesday, saying his heart was “broken” after meeting some of the injured in hospital. He later tweeted that emergency funds had been released to help survivors.

Haiti has never produced enough electricity to meet the needs of its population. Even in well-off parts of the capital, the state-run Haiti electric utility only provides, at most, a few hours of power a day.

Those who can afford it rely on pricey generators, which are no help in the face of the fuel shortage caused by gangs blocking access to the country’s oil terminals in the capital and its outskirts.

In recent months, more than a dozen vehicles transporting fuel have been attacked by gangs demanding ransoms for the drivers’ release.

The lack of fuel is also hitting water access, in a country where many people rely on private companies to deliver water by truck to at-home systems.

Chronically unstable Haiti was plunged into a new political crisis in July when President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in a still mysterious plot.

Five months after the assassination, doubts remain over who ordered the attack.