At least 58 people have died near Niger’s capital Niamey after an overturned tanker truck exploded as crowds tried to collect spilled fuel.

The blast on the main road near Niamey’s international airport left the burnt truck’s wreckage, motorbikes and debris scattered over the road. Nearby houses were also damaged by fire.

The toll from the explosion was 58 dead and at least 40 injured, according to an interior ministry spokesman.

Witnesses said people were trying to collect petrol leaking from the truck, which had overturned on railway tracks, when the explosion happened.

“It just before midnight when I went out and I saw the truck overturned. People came from everywhere to take gas, then I saw fire on its side and everything burst into flames,” a college student told the French news agency AFP.

Niger’s president, Mahamadou Issoufou, has visited the injured in the national hospital in the capital.

Prime Minister Brigi Rafini and the Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum inspected the site of the explosion this morning.

Niger, a poor West African country, has been trying to stamp out fuel smuggling from neighbouring Nigeria – a major oil producer, which has seen similar accidents and explosions in the past when people have tried to steal fuel from oil pipelines.

Activity at Niamey’s international airport was unaffected by the disaster.

Tags: ; ;