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Pains, Pangs and Prayers trail Wellington Petrol Tanker Explosion

November 8, 2021

By: Gabriel Benjamin

Sierra Leoneans have expressed mixed feelings  about Friday’s, November 6 explosion involving a petrol tanker and a truck that rammed into it in the eastern suburb of Wellington, Freetown which led to the death of over a hundred persons especially youths, and scores injured.

ruins and rumbles… Aftermath of the November 6 explosion involving a petrol tanker and a truck in eastern suburb of Wellington, Freetown

Gabriel Benjamin, Concord Times’ Chief Operating Officer who monitored reactions on various Social Media platforms reports that while business and economic activities where going on around Freetown and its environs without any hitch, the news of the tanker explosion came as a rude shock to many who took to social media to express their pains and pangs while offering prayers for the families of the victims affected.

Julius Maada Bio, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone who cut short his trip in response to the incident, wrote on his verified Twitter handle— @President Bio, “Deeply disturbed and shocked by the tragic fires and the horrendous loss of life around the Wellington PMB area. My profound sympathies with families who have lost loved ones and those who have been maimed as a result. My Government will do everything to manage this tragedy and prevent future occurrences.”

President Julius Maada Bio on his way back to Freetown

Osman Benk Sankoh, Programme Communications & Advocacy Officer, United Nations Sierra Leone, while sending his condolences to the victims of the explosion chronicled the events leading to the explosion and his early life as a teenager in the community.

“I was told that they scooped the petrol from the fuel tanker for a couple of minutes. Hell broke loose. The traffic at the Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board (shortened for PMB) environs in the Wellington Industrial Area came to a standstill. Able-bodied men and women, young and old, but mostly deprived youth saw an opportunity to quench their ‘ hunger or thirst’. In that mad rush, they forgot the consequences.

“…I was born and raised in the community [Wellington]. They are the real ‘Borbor Pains’, but yet a resilient community. Most of the original factories for which the community was renowned for, save for Brewery, the Pegapak-producing factories and a few others are now in a comatose state. With the high rate of un-employability, the ‘area men and women’ had to resort to ‘dreging’ in all its form to make ends see, not meet.”

Adding, “At the height of the rebel war, the area fell to rebel (sobels) hands during the January 6, 1999 Invasion of the capital, Freetown. They fought back to rebuild their community. The densely populated community also fought back Ebola and now, another disaster. These are my brothers and sisters, my nieces and nephews, my uncles and aunts, my Wellingtonian compatriots. Rest in Peace #wellington,” he chronicled.

Osman Benk Sankoh, Programme Communications & Advocacy Officer, United Nations Sierra Leone

Decrying the unfortunate incident, Top Sierra Leonean Music Artist and Brand Ambassador, Abdul Salam Barrie, popularly known as Yung Sal, said “Some saw it as opportunity to fend for the day, others were just onlookers trying to capture the moment, some were passerby walking home thinking of their plans for tomorrow, some were onboard vehicles heading home after a hectic day, others were in the comfort of their homes. Yet the explosion took away the lives of all. May the lives of those lost Rest in Peace [Amen] and may God provide comfort for their families.”

Top Sierra Leonean Music Artist and Brand Ambassador, Abdul Salam Barrie, popularly known as Yung Sal

Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, President of Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, who titled his message ‘The Wellington Inferno,’ reinforced the sentiments shared by several Social Media users. According to Nasralla, a similar incident occurred in 1992/1993 or thereabout at the West Street/Circular Rd/Pademba Rd (sic) intersection.

“A fuel tanker speeding from Circular Rd negotiated a sharp left turn to Pademba Road and the tank severed off the truck and landed on the intersection with a loud bang. Fuel started oozing profusely from the tank, streaming down West Street, into the gutters, and into Samba Gutter going down to Thomas St, William Street, Niambana Street, etc. Unsuspecting people rushed for containers to scoop the leaking fuel. By the time we realised it, fire erupted from nowhere. The flames along the gutters, West Street, and Samba Gutter were as high/tall as the traditional ‘Gunugunu debul’. We were trapped on our veranda.

Condoling with the victims, he wrote, “I have read reports of passengers caught up in a bus, families in cars… all roasted like ‘Kankankan’. What lessons can we learn from these incidents? Public education on fire crisis situations is lacking. Our firefighting capacity is very challenging. Safety measures by oil dealers are inefficient and probably not properly monitored by the relevant authorities.”

Not a happy man… Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, SLAJ President

Renowned Islamic Scholar Mufti Menk while sympathizing with the Government and People of Sierra Leone over the November 5 tanker explosion wrote on his verified Twitter handle @muftimenk, “I’m deeply saddened by the tragedy in #SierraLeone. May Allah Almighty grant Paradise to those who lost their lives and a speedy recovery to the injured. May He grant ease and comfort to all involved. Bear patience during these trying times. We stand with you during your loss.”

Mufti Menk, Renowned Islamic Scholar

Also, grieving over the incident, Moinina David Sengeh, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education said “Devastating news! Hundreds of mostly young people have died in a fuel tanker explosion in Wellington, Freetown. Our sincere sympathy to their families. Praying for speedy recovery for the other hundreds in hospital and critical care. Sierra Leone is the definition of resilience. Let’s support each other.”

Moinina David Sengeh, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education

While mourning the victims of the inferno, Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, Sierra Leone’s former Minister of Social Welfare and Gender Affairs, also cease the opportunity to call for urgent action from the authority. In a post seen on her verified Facebook page, she wrote: “If I ever missed being the Minister of Social Welfare, I miss it tonight. God help our people in Wellington! If Sierra Leone ever needed a robust National Disaster Management Agency, it is tonight at Wellington. Please let Government authorities mobilize and head to Wellington now!”

Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, Sierra Leone’s former Minister of Social Welfare and Gender Affairs

Vice President Mohamed J. Jalloh has made an official visit to the scene of the explosion, and to the hospitals were those injured are receiving treatment to assess the crisis at hand, and to provide motivation to medics who are responding to the situation.

Vice President Jalloh addressing Sierra Leoneans when he visited the scene of the petrol tanker explosion on Saturday morning

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