At least 28 people were killed and 79 were wounded when a fuel tank in the northern Lebanese city of Akkar blew up, the health ministry said. The explosion occurred early on Sunday morning.
Caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan said the nastiest cases of burns probably required urgent treatment abroad to save their lives. Yassine Metlej, an employee at Akkar Hospital, said the facility had received at least seven corpses and dozens of injured people with severe burns.
“The corpses are so charred that we can not identify them,” he told. “Some have lost their faces, others their arms.” He said the hospital had to turn away most of the wounded because it is unable to treat severe burns.
A military and a security source told a news agency that the explosion took place as the Lebanese army was distributing gasoline from a hidden fuel storage tanker it had confiscated.
The official National News Agency said the explosion took place following scuffles between “residents that gathered around the tank to fill up gasoline.” It said the army had left the area before the fight and the explosion. Witnesses said about 200 people were nearby at the time of the blast.
The blast comes as Lebanon faces a severe fuel shortage that has been blamed on smuggling, hoarding and the cash-strapped government’s inability to secure deliveries of imported fuel.
The crisis deteriorated dramatically this week after the central bank decided to end subsidies for fuel products: a decision that will likely lead to price hikes of almost all commodities in Lebanon, which is already in the throes of soaring poverty and hyperinflation witnessed since the Beirut Port blast.