Thirty-five persons have so far been confirmed dead in the petrol tanker explosion which rocked Benue State Monday night.
The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in Benue said that the explosion which occurred at Ahumbe, near Aliade in Gwer East Local Government Area of the state, claimed 35 lives, including that of a pregnant woman and her child.
The Sector Commander, Mr Aliyu Baba, gave the figure on Tuesday in an interview in Makurdi, adding that 101 persons sustained various degrees of burns.
Baba said that the injured persons were taken to eight different hospitals in the state, where they were currently receiving treatment.
He blamed the incident on a burst tyre which, he said, made the tanker to fall, after the driver lost control.
He said: “What happened yesterday (Monday) was that the tanker’s tyre burst and the driver lost control, while the tanker fell on the road.
“And because the fuel in the tanker emptied on the road, the villagers saw it as free fuel and went with containers to scoop the product.”
He said that the scooping lasted for almost 45 minutes, until a Toyota bus, en route Makurdi from Aliade axis, ignited fire when its silencer scratched on the tar, while the driver attempted to meander through the available space near the tanker.
He said that the fire caused the first explosion, which killed 14 passengers on the bus, leaving only the driver and one passenger with severe burns.
Baba said that the second explosion, which recorded more casualties, happened when onlookers, motorists and villagers trooped to the scene to either catch a glimpse of the incident or assist in the rescue efforts.
He said that those affected during the second explosion included firefighters, those who came to take pictures to possibly post on social media, passengers from other vehicles and villagers.
Baba said that no firefighter official died but that two of them sustained burns and were rushed to the hospital for treatment.
At the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Makurdi, Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi and other hospitals, many of the victims on admission were in critical conditions.
The Chief Medical Director of the teaching hospital, Prof. Terlumun Swende, told newsmen that one of the 10 victims received at the facility died in the early hours of Tuesday.
He said that the patients suffered over 75 per cent degree burns and that some were moved into the intensive care unit.
At the FMC, the Chief Medical Director, Dr Peteru Inunduh, said that the centre received 14 patients who, he said, were responding to treatment.
Inunduh further said that three of the patients were receiving treatment in the intensive care unit of the centre.
Also, Mr Nicolas Utukwa, the local government Caretaker Committee Chairman, described the incident as unfortunate.