Lebanon fuel tanker explosion kills at least 20

AT least 20 people were killed and nearly 80 others wounded when a fuel tanker exploded in Lebanon’s northern region of Akkar, the Red Cross and state media said on Sunday.

The tragedy heaped new misery on a country already suffering from an economic crisis and severe fuel shortages that have crippled hospitals and caused long power cuts.

“Our teams have transported 20 dead bodies … from the fuel tanker explosion in #AKKAR to hospitals in the area,” the Lebanese Red Cross said on Twitter.

It added that 79 other people were injured.

The official National News Agency said that a container of fuel that the army had confiscated had exploded.

It said the explosion took place following scuffles between “residents that gathered around the container to fill up gasoline” overnight.

The agency added that the army had left the area before the fight and the explosion.

Yassine Metlej, an employee at an Akkar hospital, said that the facility had received at least seven corpses and dozens of burn victims.

“The corpses are so charred that we can’t identify them,” he told AFP.

“Some have lost their faces, others their arms.”

He said the hospital had to turn away most of the wounded because it is unable to treat severe burns.

Videos on social media purportedly from the blast showed a large fire consuming metal scraps.

AFP could not independently verify the authenticity of the footage.

‘Burns’

An employee at another hospital who asked to be identified only as Mohammad said more than 30 wounded people had come to the facility.

“They all have burns,” he said, adding that many were turned away because the hospital is not equipped to treat such cases.

Others found care more than 25 kilometres (16 miles) away at the Al-Salam hospital in the northern city of Tripoli, the only facility in the region able to handle burn patients.

Lebanon, hit by a financial crisis branded by the World Bank as one of the planet’s worst since the 1850s, has been grappling with soaring poverty, a plummeting currency and dire fuel shortages.

The Lebanese army on Saturday said it seized thousands of litres of gasoline and diesel that distributors were stockpiling at stations across the country.

Fuel shortages have left many with just two hours of electricity a day, while several hospitals have recently warned they may have to close due to power outages.
(AFP)