An ill-motive by some bodaboda riders to draw fuel from an ill-fated oil tanker is the major cause of the deadly accident that occurred yesterday at Msamvu in Morogoro, killing 63 people and injuring over 70 others, it has been said.
President John Magufuli and Zanzibar President Ali Mohammed Shein both offered their condolences following the tragic accident, saying they were deeply shocked by the sudden deaths of such a big number of Tanzanians.
Reports from the police and eyewitnesses at the scene have it that the oil tanker that was travelling from Dar es Salaam to Iringa Region veered off the road and overturned at Msamvu after its driver swerved to avoid knocking a motorcyclist, who was crossing the road.
Further reports from the scene say that the fire erupted after the bodaboda riders opened the tanker's oil release valves, causing fuel to spill over the ground as others scrambled for it.
It was at that juncture when one of the bodaboda riders resorted to remove the tanker's battery, which caused sparks that caused fire to erupt.
But, another account from the scene is that after the oil tanker's release valves were opened, causing oil to spill over the ground, the spillage flowed up to the place, where a food vendor was preparing fire to start her cooking activities. However, both accounts are yet to be verified by the police.
The bodies of those, who died were burnt beyond recognition, making identification even more difficult. Some of the injured persons were rushed to Morogoro Referral Hospital, while others were taken to Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) for specialised medical care.
Morogoro Regional Police Commander (RPC) Wilbroad Mtafungwa said the fatal accident happened at about 8am, when the bodaboda rider, who was carrying a woman with a child crossed the Dar es Salaam-Morogoro Road at Msamvu, an act that forced the driver of the lorry to swerve his vehicle to avoid knocking him, thus causing the oil tanker to overturn.
The regional police boss said after the tanker overturned fire broke up, engulfing the area and killing 62 people instantly and injuring over 70 other people.
"The bodies of those who perished in the accident were taken to Morogoro Referral Hospital awaiting identification," the RPC said. According to RPC Mtafungwa, a total of 26 motorcycles and six bicycles were also destroyed by fire.
He said investigation would be conducted to find out why such a big number of motorbikes and bicycles were found at the scene of the accident, hinting that it was possible the owners had arrived there to take petrol from the oil tanker after it overturned.
"We have successfully extinguished fire after concerted efforts from the Tanzania People's Defence Forces (TPDF), the Fire and Rescue Force, Tanesco, the Police Force and members of the public," noted RPC Mtafungwa.
Traffic from Dar es Salaam to upcountry and vice versa, upon reaching the area of the accident, was diverted for safety reasons, including creating space for rescue operations to be carried out.
Police directed residents, who had stolen fuel and stored it in their homes to surrender it before a special crackdown was launched.
Morogoro Regional Commissioner, Dr Kebwe Stephen Kebwe, who also arrived at the scene, said the accident was a heavy blow to the nation.
President Magufuli in his condolence message said: "I have been saddened to learn about the deaths of such a big number of people from the accident.
I extend my sincere condolences to all families that have lost their loved ones. I wish a speedy recovery for those, who were injured in the accident."
The President directed the respective ministries, Morogoro Referral Hospital and Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) to ensure those, who were injured in the accident were properly treated.
He also expressed his concern over a tendency by some people to scramble for fuel and other properties, when road accidents occurred.
For his part, Zanzibar President Ali Mohamed Shein said: "We are with the bereaved families. We pray for the injured ones for a quick recovery."
Dr Shein said in his condolence message that the accident was one of the worst incidents in the country in recent years. Chief Government Spokesman, Dr Hassan Abbasi, said the government received the news with great shock. "May the departed souls rest in peace and we pray for a quick recovery for those injured."
"It has been a habit that whenever an accident involving an oil tanker occurs some people rush to the scene of accident to collect fuel.
This is not good. Let us use this time to remind each other to stay away from a scene of accident, instead of rushing to the area," urged Dr Abbasi.
Tanzania has faced similar incidents in the past and it appears some people don't learn from such disasters.