Gasoline car explodes in Haiti, killing more than 60 people-The New York Times

2021-12-15 00:41:43 By : Ms. Le Qi

More people were injured in the explosion. This is the latest tragedy in a country plagued by political violence, natural disasters, poverty and hunger.

Give any friend a story

As a subscriber, you have 10 gifts to send every month. Anyone can read what you share.

Harold Isaac and Oscar Lopez

CAP-HAÏTIEN, Haiti-Officials said that early Tuesday, a truck loaded with gasoline exploded in northern Haiti, killing more than 60 people and injuring many others.

According to local officials and eyewitnesses, the truck carrying approximately 9,000 gallons of fuel suddenly turned and overturned in a residential area in Cap-Haïtien City. Frandy Jean, head of firefighters in northern Haiti, said that before the truck exploded at midnight, a group of people gathered to soak up the gasoline and scorched everything within a 100-yard radius.

Mr. Jean, 49, said: "This is the first time I have experienced such a disaster since I was a firefighter for more than 17 years."

This accident is the latest tragedy in Haiti this year, and the country is still in trouble due to the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July. Since then, this Caribbean country has been attacked by a deadly earthquake, severe flooding, and a series of kidnappings carried out by the country's increasingly powerful criminal gangs.

The power grid in Haiti is unreliable, so most parts of the country-including banks, hospitals and businesses-rely on generators for power. But in the past few months, gangs controlling access to the fuel terminal have prevented deliveries, leading to a severe shortage of Haitians.

Witnesses desperately in need of fuel said that some people in Cap-Haïtien were willing to take the risk of getting near the truck that was shot down on Tuesday to collect gasoline.

The mayor’s office said on Twitter that in addition to dozens of deaths, hundreds more were injured in the explosion.

"I'm upset by the tragedies affecting our city," Mayor Yvros Pierre said on Twitter. "In these tragic moments, all my thoughts are with the victim and all their loved ones."

According to local media reports, the city’s deputy mayor, Patrick Almonor, said that about 20 houses in the area caught fire due to explosions. The initial casualty report did not include people who might have died at home.

In the videos and photos shared on social media, flames can be seen erupting and black smoke billowing in the air above what appears to be the corpse of a charred truck. The footage after the accident showed that the explosion turned the building black, more than a dozen dead bodies covered with white sheets, scattered on the ground, and scorched vehicles twisted into fragments.

Hours after the initial explosion, hundreds of bystanders were still standing around the smoking remnants of the collapsed truck in shock, trying to figure out what was going on, even as the workers began to dismantle the burned wreckage.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry wrote on Twitter that the medical team has been sent to the scene and announced three days of mourning. Mr. Henry also went to Cap Haiti on Tuesday afternoon, where he met with the victim.

"This is a tragedy," Henry said at a press conference. "Some people died at home but don't understand what happened."

Officials said that the two major hospitals in the area were overwhelmed by dozens of people in need of care and were seeking help from other hospitals and the public because they lacked even the most basic supplies, such as bed sheets, to take care of the wounded.

On Tuesday afternoon, at Justinian University Hospital, a small number of burn victims (some of them seriously injured) were still in the yard because there was no room for them in the facility.

"The country is guilty of what happened," said 22-year-old Jhonky Joseph, a student who lost some of his classmates in the fire and stood outside. "Where there is no country, you will see this kind of thing."

According to officials, the injured also included those who were trampled on as people fled the scene. Médecins Sans Frontières stated in a statement that it had dispatched a medical team to Cap-Haïtien, where six patients were airlifted to Port-au-Prince and taken to the organization’s hospital. The Civil Defense Department of Haiti stated that about 15 people have been airlifted and taken to a specialized medical center.

Health and emergency services in Haiti have been in a state of disrepair for a long time, and a series of tragedies have recently occurred, including a devastating earthquake and flash floods, which killed more than 2,000 people and injured and displaced more people.

Natural disasters are compounded by poverty, hunger and increasing violence.

In recent months, severe fuel shortages have pushed the country into further collapse. Gangs, not the government, now control large areas of the country. They use fuel demand to hijack gasoline trucks at will and prevent deliveries. Many truck drivers refused to work in October, and the nationwide strike paralyzed the country.

In the capital, Port-au-Prince, gangs have become more and more unscrupulous. They kidnap people collectively, targeting everyone from schoolchildren to local religious leaders.

In October, 17 people associated with American Christian Aid were abducted after visiting the orphanage, including several children. So far, only five people have been released. The group that took the hostages was named 400 Mawozo and initially demanded a ransom of $17 million to be released.

Former Prime Minister Claude Joseph took control of the Haitian government for a short time after the president was assassinated. He said that the news of the explosion broke his heart.

He wrote on Twitter: "I share the pain and sorrow of all people."

Harold Isaac reported from Cap-Haïtien, and Oscar Lopez from Mexico City. Marc Santora contributed reporting to this article from London.