PORT OU PRINCE, Haiti (AP). A truck carrying gasoline overturned and exploded in a fireball in northern Haiti, setting fire to cars and houses, killing more than 50 people and injuring dozens of others in the latest disaster. a country whose problems have worsened this year.
The blast occurred late Monday night in the coastal town of Cap-Haitien, as survivors ran outside and shouted as they watched the fire engulf part of their area. A few hours later, the local hospital was overwhelmed by the wounded, as it requested to provide them with basic necessities and additional medical personnel.
Dozens of bodies lay near the blast site as some people used buckets to scoop up gas from the truck and off the street to take it home, Dave Laroz, a civil engineer based in Cap Haitien, told The Associated Press.
The blast came as Haiti struggles with acute fuel shortages and skyrocketing gas prices that recently forced hospitals to refuse patients, temporarily close gas stations, schools and businesses, and prompted the US and Canadian governments to urge their citizens to leave while they still could.
“It’s terrible what our country has to go through,” Laroz said.
Haiti is still struggling to recover from the July 7 assassination of the president and the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck in mid-August, which killed more than 2,200 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes. The country, with a population of over 11 million, has also been hit by a spike in gang-related kidnappings, including 17 missionaries from a U.S. religious organization who were kidnapped in mid-October. Five of them were released, but another 12 are in custody.
Haitians are now mourning the victims of the explosion, which officials say occurred after a gas station capsized after apparently trying to avoid being hit by a motorcycle, Patrick Almonor, deputy mayor of Cap-Haitien told the Associated Press.
He said that at least 53 people were killed and more than 100 injured in the explosion, which burned down about 20 houses near the site. He said he expects the number of deaths to continue to rise because the people who have died in their homes have not yet been counted.
“What happened is terrible,” he said. “We’ve lost so many lives.”
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Almonor said the local hospital is in dire need of nurses, doctors and basic supplies to help the injured.
“We are shocked,” a man known as Dr. Calhill Tourenne told Le Nouvelliste newspaper.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry said he was devastated and announced that his administration was deploying field hospitals in the area to help those affected.
“A three-day national mourning will be declared throughout the territory to commemorate the victims of this tragedy, for which the entire Haitian people mourn,” he tweeted.
Former Prime Minister Claude Joseph also mourned the victims, tweeting: “I share the pain and grief of all people.”