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World News | South Africa fuel truck explosion death toll rises to 34

World News | South Africa fuel truck explosion death toll rises to 34

JOHANNESBURG, Jan. 2 (AP) — The death toll from a fuel tanker explosion near east Johannesburg on Christmas Eve has risen to 34, including 10 health care workers at a nearby hospital, officials said.

The truck was carrying gasoline when it became stuck under a low-lying bridge in the town of Boksburg, sparking the fire. The tanker exploded as firefighters tried to extinguish them, according to emergency service officials.

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The “incendiary bomb” from the blast severely damaged Tambo Memorial Hospital, about 100 meters (110 yards) away, authorities said. Several paramedics were in the hospital parking lot, some leaving after get off work and others trying to move their cars away from the fire.

Health Minister Joe Phaahla said that in addition to the loss of life, the hospital’s emergency department and X-ray department were also severely damaged.

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Other victims were residents who had gathered to watch the burning truck. At least 321 injured people were taken to damaged hospitals, although some were later transferred to other hospitals in the Johannesburg area.

The explosion also damaged several homes and vehicles, according to officials.

“A fireball in the sky,” local resident Rolf Bjornstad described the explosion on South Africa’s News24 website.

“There was heat in the house. I thought about my wife, my children, and helping those affected,” he said.

The South African Council of Churches held a memorial service for all those killed in the accident.

The 32-year-old driver was detained days after the crash but was later released by officials, saying there was not enough evidence to charge him.

The tanker truck transporting liquefied petroleum gas – used for heating and cooking in homes and industries – was on its way to Botswana from Richards Bay, South Africa’s Indian Ocean port, officials said.

Innovative Staff Solutions, the company that hired the driver, said he was not negligent. He made a wrong turn and was following directions back to the highway. There was no gap to the bridge in sight, but he stopped and expected the truck to pass under it. But he didn’t calculate that as the front of the truck drops, the rear end rises.

When the rear of the truck became stuck, the driver called the fire department and tried to keep motorists and pedestrians away from the scene. He collapsed from inhaling gas fumes and was taken away by ambulance shortly before the explosion, local media said.

Ekurhuleni Mayor Tania Campbell said the incident would be investigated. (Associated Press)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)

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