Health Minister Joe Fahla announced on Sunday that the death toll from a catastrophic fuel truck explosion in the South African city of Boksburg, east of Johannesburg, has risen to 15.
“Yesterday (Saturday) the death toll was 10 and we are sitting at 15 this morning,” Fakhla told reporters at Tambo Memorial Hospital.
A tanker carrying liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) got stuck under a bridge near a hospital and houses in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg, on Saturday morning.
The minister said that three hospital staff, two nurses and a driver, later died from severe burns.
37 people were injured, including 24 patients and 13 employees who were in the hospital’s emergency room at the time of the explosion.
They “suffered severe burns and were taken to nearby hospitals,” Fahala said.
He added that others were hit by broken glass and some were injured while in the parking lot or in front of the hospital.
“We express our deepest condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones,” he said.
Damaged roof, broken windows
Video on social media showed a huge fireball under the bridge, which the tanker was found to be too high to pass under.
It was carrying 60,000 liters of LPG, which is used mainly for cooking and gas stoves, and arrived from the southeast of the country.
The health minister said the explosion severely damaged the hospital’s emergency room and x-ray department.
“The roof was damaged, ceilings collapsed, windows were broken and other equipment was damaged,” Phaala said.
He added that windows were broken on most floors of the hospital.
Witness Jean Marie Boysen described on Saturday how she felt a “big jolt” in the early hours of the morning, shortly after 6:30 am (4:30 am GMT).
“I went upstairs to have a cup of tea and saw a huge flame, I thought the house was on fire.”
She said she later learned of the deaths of “two … here across the street, a 16-year-old girl and a 25-year-old boy, who came and cleaned the lawn for me every weekend.”
Another witness, named William, who did not give his last name, said that people nearby felt the explosion.
“I think I was 50 meters (164 feet) from the scene… We were on fire behind our backs,” he said.