Disasters & Accidents

Death toll in Haiti fuel tanker blast climbs to 75

Port-au-Prince, Dec 15 (EFE).- The death toll from the explosion of a fuel tanker in the northern city of Cap-Haitien has increased by 14 and stands at 75, Haitian authorities said Wednesday.

Fifty-six other people remain hospitalized in critical condition and the number of fatalities could grow in the coming hours, the head of Civil Protection in Nord province, Jean Henri Petit, told Efe.

Those 56 patients include 15 people who were airlifted to better-equipped hospitals in Port-au-Prince and Hinche, a city in central Haiti.

A body was found Wednesday inside one of the score of nearby homes that were damaged in the blast and ensuing fire, Cap-Haitien Deputy Mayor Patrick Almonord said.

The tragedy unfolded in the wee hours of Tuesday morning after the truck flipped while rounding a corner in Haiti’s second-largest city, he told Efe.

Dozens of people rushed toward the truck, hoping to collect the spilled fuel, and some of them pounded on the tank with hammers, Almonord said.

Authorities have yet to determine what caused the spark that ignited the fuel.

The national government announced plans to set up two field hospitals in Cap-Haitien to relieve pressure on the city’s overloaded health care system.

Last Friday saw the imposition of hefty increases in fuel prices by the government of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who was installed in the wake of the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

The price of gasoline at the pump went from the equivalent of $2.01 per gallon to $2.50, while the price of diesel more than doubled, from $1.69 to $3.53 a gallon.

Kerosene, used by rural dwellers and the urban poor to light lamps, now costs $3.52 a gallon, up from $1.63.

Henry said the price hikes were necessary because Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, can no longer afford to spend $300 million a year on fuel subsidies.

The dramatic price increases came barely a month after the boss of Haiti’s most powerful federation of gangs had his men suspend their blockade of the oil terminal in the capital’s port and cease attacks on tanker trucks.

G9, led by former police officer Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, began obstructing fuel deliveries in mid-September and progressively worsening shortages crippled the already struggling Haitian economy.

EFE mp-mm/dr

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