Home Governance Totota Gas Tanker Explosion: Death Rate Rises Again… As Doctors Appeal For Urgent Medical Supplies; Say Many Others May Die If

Totota Gas Tanker Explosion: Death Rate Rises Again… As Doctors Appeal For Urgent Medical Supplies; Say Many Others May Die If

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MONROVIA: Health authorities have highlighted the urgency for medical supplies as the death toll from the December 26, 2023 gas tanker explosion incident is climbing at an increasing rate.

The toll is currently at 72, as Liberian health officials say they need medical supplies to attend to patients who sustained severe burns.
The tragic incident unfolded when a tanker carrying gasoline heading to Ganta veered off the main Totota road some 130km from the capital, Monrovia.
Video footage showed that a large number of people, including children, had gathered around the tanker after it overturned to siphon gas.
Some had buckets and gallons, while others were on top of the tanker when the tanker burst into flames.
It resulted in dozens of deaths and injuries. Among the lives claimed by the fire were those of a pregnant woman, her daughter, and her husband.

The commander of the Liberia National Police (LNP) substation in Totota, Moufee Jabateh, was also one of those caught up in the tragic gasoline tanker blast, along with a commander of the Community Watch Forum of the area, Korvah Juker.

Jabateh and Juker had both gone to the scene to prevent looting and control the crowd when they were caught in the explosion. Juker later died of his injuries at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center.

Following the blast, many of the victims were immediately rushed to Phebe Hospital in nearby Suacoco, Bong County for treatment. Most were later transferred to medical facilities in Monrovia for more enhanced treatment.

On December 28, 2023, the Liberia National Red Cross Society, which has been tracking victims, organized a mass burial to lay ten of the victims to rest in Totota, including a pregnant woman.

At the Sinkor compound of the John F. Kennedy Medical Center, Mrs. Dama Yekeson Koffa, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer for Administration, addressed a group of journalists on Thursday, December 28, 2023, where she disclosed that JFK currently has 9 out of 29 patients with a variety of different degrees of burns. The remaining 20 have died.
She said many of the remaining patients have burns from the top of their heads to the bottom of their feet. “Infection is the biggest problem of the patients because they do not have the barrier of the skin any longer,” Madam Koffa said.
“All of the facilities attending to the victims are in dire need of medical supplies,” Madam Koffa said, referring to Phebe, ELWA, 14th Military, and Catholic Hospitals. “The need for fluids to help resuscitate patients at JFK cannot be overemphasized,” she stressed.
“The facility also needs saline solution as much,” she said, adding that many of the patients have had the upper layer of their skin damaged, with fluids in their veins dried up.
She mentioned that each patient needs to have gauze changed two to three times daily, with one roll costing US$40.
Madam Koffa noted that JFK also needs antibiotics, adult diapers, and other supplies “now, tomorrow, and in the coming week.”
She feared that patients would continue to die if supplies were not provided as quickly as possible: “It is unfortunate to state that the facility is losing patience with the limited medical supplies available.”
For her part, Dr. Yatta Wapoe, who gave an interview to journalists on January 6 at a gathering for senior Liberian health officials in Totota, confirmed that the new total number of deaths from the tanker explosion was 72.

Phebe Hospital had initially received and admitted 37 patients, she said, although seven were later discharged and one died.
ELWA Hospital had received 22 patients, 16 of who succumbed to their injuries. At the 14 Military Hospital, Madam Wapoe, who is head of the Montserrado County Health Team, said 3 of the 11 patients received have died.

Meanwhile, all five patients at Catholic Hospital are still alive and 14 other patients were admitted for minor injuries at the Totota Community Clinic. At the Latter-Day Saints Clinic, Madam Wapoe said two patients were admitted and are still alive.
Health authorities are still attempting to trace 32 individuals missing on the day of the accident, she said. They were believed to have been at the site of the tanker explosion.

Following the tragic incident, President George Weah expressed his most profound sympathy to the families of those who lost their lives and called on the public to reach out to the affected families.

After several calls from Liberians including a group calling itself the Concerned Bong County Citizens urging the president to declare a national day of mourning, Weah, in a press statement, declared a week of national mourning for the victims beginning Sunday, January 7, 2024.
“All prelates and houses of worship are encouraged to continue to pray for the bereaved families and the injured during this period,” the statement indicated.

President Weah has also ordered that National flag on all public buildings be flown at half-mast during the week of national mourning.

On Sunday, December 31, 2023 President-elect, Joseph Nyuma Boakai, also visited the site of the tanker explosion and donated L$10 million along with 200 25kg bags of rice to victims at the Phebe Hospital.

Boakai said he recognized the gravity of the tragic situation and understands the profound impact it has on the affected families and the entire country.

The President-elect emphasized the importance of basic education of citizens for safety, self-awareness, and protection in emergencies.

He urged state security to conduct a comprehensive investigation on the cause of such tragedy with relevant recommendations on preventive measures.

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