DR Congo fuel truck victims buried in mass graves

Sheets cover the bodies of those who died in the accident in Sange Teams have been taking bodies to mass graves outside the devastated village

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The bodies of some of the scores of people killed in a fuel truck explosion in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been buried in mass graves.

At least 230 people were killed when the overturned oil tanker exploded and sparked a fire in Sange village.

Some of those who died were trying to collect leaking fuel but others were trapped inside buildings, including a cinema, by the blaze.

UN peacekeepers, aid workers and troops have been helping the injured.

The truck overturned in the village of Sange

As Saturday wore on, Red Cross teams carried bodies wrapped in plastic sheeting to two mass graves outside the village, the Associated Press reports.

Jean-Claude Kibala, South Kivu's vice-governor, said scenes in the village were "terrible".

"There are lots of dead bodies on the streets. The population is in terrible shock - no-one is crying or speaking," he said.

'Warning ignored'

The accident happened late on Friday in Sange, about 70km (40 miles) south of the town of Bukavu in South Kivu, near the border with Burundi.

FUEL TANKER DISASTERS

  • October 2009: At least 70 people burnt to death when tanker explodes in Anambra state, Nigeria, setting fire to minibuses
  • November 2008: Tanker overturns and explodes in Ghana, killing at least 22 as people scoop up fuel
  • August 2008: Similar incident kills dozens of villagers in explosion in northern Cameroon
  • January 2008: Dozens of people reported dead as tanker explodes near Port Harcourt, Nigeria
  • March 2007: Up to 100 dead in blast after trying to collect fuel from broken-down tanker in Nigeria's Kaduna State

The truck, travelling from Tanzania, overturned and began leaking fuel.

"Petrol began to leak out but instead of fleeing people came to collect the fuel," Tondo Sahizira, 28, told AFP news agency.

"A few minutes later there was an explosion, flames burst from the truck and spread very quickly."

Bedide Mwasha said that five Pakistani peacekeepers had urged people to leave the area "but people refused to leave".

"Men, women and children, even [government] soldiers were stealing petrol," the 45-year-old Sange resident said.

Several homes with thatched roofs were engulfed in flames, as was a cinema where a crowd had gathered to watch the World Cup.

"My children were watching the football match in the cinema and then they ran out to see the petrol," Kiza Ruvinira told Reuters news agency.

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"I went out to see what happened and I found my three children's bodies myself. I don't know how to go on."

Madnodje Mounoubai, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission, said the latest death toll was 230, with another 196 people injured.

The Red Cross said that at least 61 children and 36 women were among the dead.

Peacekeepers helped evacuate dozens of the injured to hospitals in towns of Bukavu and Uvira. Congolese troops have also been sent to Sange help survivors.

The UN's acting special representative to Congo, Leila Zerrougui, said the UN would "do everything possible to help authorities and assist victims".

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