Authorities in Mozambique are still trying to determine the cause of a lethal explosion in a village. What's clear is that a fuel truck went up in smoke, killing more than 40 and injuring scores more.
At least 44 people were killed and more than 100 injured when a fuel truck burst into flames in a village in western Mozambique, according to Jose Mendonca, speaker of the provincial government in the Tete region. State-run Radio Mozambique was reporting a higher death toll of 73.
Mendonca said that 15 children were among the wounded as well as two pregnant women.
"There are two pregnant women with third-degree burns. That worries us a lot. We are monitoring all the necessary information. The whole community is on alert. We'll have information coming from different places," Mendonca said, adding that an investigation was underway and that further data could be available as soon as Friday.
The truck had crashed on Wednesday afternoon and was immobilized.
Accounts of how the explosion was triggered varied. Some locals suggested a problem inside the oil tank or a short circuit, others blamed people trying to siphon off fuel from the vehicle, while other accounts suggested that police warning shots - trying to disperse people stealing fuel - could have set off the blast. One witness even blamed police entirely, saying they were the ones siphoning off the fuel.
"Police were siphoning off fuel in order to sell it to the people in Moatize. We were looking. Then I don't know what happened. A shot and there was a fire."
Mendonca referred to the ongoing investigation when asked about these allegations, saying authorities still did not know what had caused the fire. Three government ministers were expected on site on Friday to monitor the rescuers' ongoing work.
mc/msh (AFP, AP)