Fuel tank explosion in Lebanon kills 22, overwhelms hospitals - GulfToday

Fuel tank explosion in Lebanon kills 22, overwhelms hospitals

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Lebanese Red Cross volunteers gather at a street next to the scene where a fuel tanker exploded, in Tleil village. AP

Gulf Today Report

At least 22 people were killed and 79 injured when a warehouse where fuel was illegally stored exploded in northern Lebanon early Sunday, the health minister said.

The tragedy overwhelmed medical facilities and spurred a search for the missing, heaping new misery on a nation already beset by an economic crisis and severe fuel shortages that have crippled hospitals and caused long power cuts.


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The Lebanese Red Cross said on Twitter that "Our teams have transported 20 dead bodies ... from the fuel tanker explosion" to hospitals.

Military and security sources said that the army had seized a fuel storage tank hidden by black marketeers and was in the midst of handing out gasoline to residents when the explosion took place.

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This photo shows a burning truck at the site of a fuel tank explosion in the village of Tlel in northern Lebanon. AFP

Yassine Metlej, an employee at an Akkar hospital, said it had received at least seven corpses and dozens of burns victims.

"The corpses are so charred that we can't identify them," he told the media reporters.

"Some have lost their faces, others their arms."

Lebanon is suffering from a severe fuel shortage, leading to long lines at gas stations and extended blackouts. The disaster happened in the town of Altalil, in the Akkar region that is one of Lebanon's poorest areas.

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An ambulance drives by the Geitaoui hospital in the Lebanese capital Beirut on Sunday. AFP

About 200 people were nearby at the time of the explosion, eyewitnesses said.

Caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan said the worst cases of burns probably needed quick treatment abroad to save their lives.

"We need urgent help to evacuate some of the injured abroad.. there are cases (of burns) that are more than the ability of Lebanese hospitals to handle," he told the local reporters.

It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion near the border with Syria. Fuel smuggling operations have been ongoing for months.

 

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