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Thursday, August 18, 2022

Haiti Gas-Truck Blast Kills at Least 62 People

A tanker truck carrying gasoline exploded in Haiti’s second-largest city of Cap-Haïtien, killing at least 62 people and injuring dozens more, Haitian officials said Tuesday.

The disaster unfolded when the tanker truck swerved to avoid a passing motorcycle, hit an electricity pole and overturned around midnight Monday, spilling gasoline, according to local officials. Residents, who have been suffering from fuel shortages in the country, gathered around the truck to collect gasoline in buckets when the truck exploded, engulfing many in the crowd in a fireball.

Residents in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti, surveyed damage from the gasoline-truck explosion Tuesday.


Joseph Odelyn/Associated Press

“Local residents flocked to pillage the gasoline truck when the explosion occurred,” Patrick Almonor, the deputy mayor of Cap-Haïtien, said in an interview. “The driver was able to get away unscathed.”

Haiti’s National Network for the Defense of Human Rights said that after the crash, the driver tried to warn away local residents who wanted to draw fuel from the overturned truck.

But residents, wielding hammers, punched holes in the tank and began to collect fuel. The gasoline flowed down into a nearby canal and was ignited by burning trash nearby, setting off the explosion, the organization said.

Mr. Almonor said the death toll stood at 62, with 48 badly injured people receiving aid at local hospitals. He said the number of dead was likely to rise since the explosion burned some 20 nearby homes, probably with victims trapped inside that had not yet been counted.

The disaster took place in a densely populated poor neighborhood of Cap-Haïtien, a seaport on the country’s northeastern coast. Video showed a towering flame shooting at least 100 feet into the air and enveloping a street in the city, located on the country’s northern coast.

Health workers tended to one of the dozens injured in Tuesday’s gasoline-truck explosion in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti.


Joseph Odelyn/Associated Press

“People were carbonized, swept up in the flames and the stampede to get the gasoline,” said Pierreli Catius, the coordinator of a local political party. “It’s a huge tragedy.”

Fires continued to burn around noon Tuesday, said Mackenz Dorvilus, a local reporter. “Five people from one family died charred, burned alive,” he said in an interview from the scene.

“I am appalled by the tragedy that is affecting our city,” said

Yvrose Pierre,

the mayor of Cap-Haïtien, writing on the city’s



Prime Minister Ariel Henry said field hospitals would be set up to attend to the injured, and declared three days of national mourning for the victims. Mr. Henry, along with senior government officials, doctors and first aid workers, arrived at Cap-Haïtien on Tuesday. He toured the disaster area and visited a hospital where the injured are being treated.

“It’s with a broken heart that I am seeing the critical condition of some of our compatriots,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

The injured were crowded into the courtyard of the city’s main hospitals for lack of space, and facilities were in need of supplies, said Haiti’s Le Nouvelliste newspaper.

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The blast is the latest in a series of setbacks to hit Haiti, following the July assassination of President

Jovenel Moïse

and a devastating 7.2-magnitude earthquake in August that killed at least 2,000 people and destroyed thousands of homes in the country’s southern peninsula.

A 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti near the town of Saint-Louis du Sud on Saturday, killing more than 700 people and injuring many others, according to Haiti’s Civil Protection agency. The earthquake sent shock waves across Haiti, as first responders and civilians searched the rubble for survivors. Photo: Ralph Tedy Erol/Zuma Press

Following the assassination, which further undermined an already depleted Haitian state, powerful gangs increased their grip on the country, kidnapping hundreds of people for ransom.

A group of 17 missionaries, including women and children, all but one American, was taken captive by one gang in October. Five of the missionaries have since been released, but the remainder are still being held.

Haitians also have suffered from crippling gasoline shortages. Earlier this year, the country’s principal fuel terminal was blocked by gangs that attempted to extort money from the government and force Mr. Henry to resign.

As a result, the price of gasoline shot up to as much as $25 a gallon on the street, and hospitals shut down. The price of gas returned to its subsidized price of about $2 a gallon, but on Friday, the government announced a 25% increase, to about $2.50 a gallon. Most Haitians earn between $2 and $4 a day.

—Patrick Saint-Pre in Port-au-Prince and Ingrid Arnesen in Atlanta contributed to this article.

Write to José de Córdoba at [email protected] and Anthony Harrup at [email protected]

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