Cap-Haitien: A gasoline tanker overturned and exploded in northern Haiti, unleashing a fireball that swept through homes and businesses on its way to killing at least 75 people Tuesday, according to local authorities, in the latest tragedy to befall the Caribbean nation.
The blast occurred shortly after midnight in Cap-Haitien, Haiti’s second largest city, along the northern coast. Hours later, buildings and overturned vehicles were still fuming as firefighters covered the burned bodies of the young victims in white sheets and loaded them onto the back of a construction truck.
Hundreds of Haitians — who aren’t easily shocked amid their country’s multiple misfortunes — looked on from rooftops in disbelief at the loss of so much life. Prime Minister Ariel Henry, himself a physician, visited a hospital where victims bandaged head to toe were fighting for their lives amid a shortage of medical supplies and health workers.
“It’s horrible what happened,” said Patrick Almonor, deputy mayor of Cap-Haitien, who said late Tuesday that 75 people had died.. “We lost so many lives.”
Early reports indicate that the tanker was trying to avoid an oncoming motorcycle when it flipped. Onlookers then rushed to the scene with buckets to scoop up what they could of the tanker’s valuable cargo, likely for resale on the black market, as the fuel spilled toward a nearby pile of smoldering trash.
Contributing to the high death toll is the desperation that has forced impoverished Haitians in recent months to scramble for gasoline due to severe shortages that have shuttered gas stations, sent fuel prices on the black market spiraling and forced businesses to close as the U.S. and Canadian governments warn their citizens to leave while they still can.
Hospitals in Haiti’s second largest city seemed ill equipped to deal with the disaster and 15 victims had to be evacuated by air to hospitals in the capital, Port-au-Prince.Some of the burn victims were being treated by teams from Doctors without Borders.
The prime minister promised more help in the form of field hospitals and a contingent of medical professionals. But minutes after he left the facility, five more patients died