Dar es Salaam — The government should revisit laws on the transportation of dangerous goods like petroleum. products which are highly inflammable
"There are regulatory frameworks already in place which are intended to curb road disasters, but they largely are not applied," says Steven Mlote. He said this in the wake of the disastrous fuel road tanker accident in Morogoro Region on Saturday morning, which had claimed some 71 lives by yesterday evening. "The transportation of dangerous goods like fuel and poisons has special procedures; petroleum is one of those items", the engineer told The Citizen in an interview.
Eng Mlote, who is the deputy secretary general of the East African Community (EAC), said loss of lives from road fuel tanker accidents was increasingly becoming a matter of concern. "Many people have lost their lives - and we are now grieving. What do we do with the fuel tankers? Should they be escorted - or what?" he querried. Generally, there are laws governing the public transportation of hazardous cargoes, including those which are highly inflammable like petroleum. However, Mr Mlote - a former executive secretary of the Engineers Registration Board (ERB) - challenged the government to formulate stricter laws that would curb deaths and serious injuries from road tanker accidents. "There are statutory requirements that road vehicles transporting dangerous loads are escorted. I am not sure if this is done", he said when reached on the phone in Arusha. A road tanker transporting fuel overturned and exploded in Morogoro Region on Saturday morning, killing and injuring scores of people. Prof. Martin Shem, who resides in Morogoro, partly blamed the high death toll to ignorance of the public, compounded by laxity on the part of the police.
"If the police who are always in the vicinity would have acted quickly, this wouldn't have happened," he told The Citizen from Morogoro. The East African Business Council CEO, Mr Peter Mathuki, said that - while accidents are inevitable - awareness among the people is critical on the dangers associated with the handling of highly inflammable products. Donald Kasongi, a development expert based in Mwanza, said it was unfortunate that road disasters have become part of life in many African countries.
He challenged governments to make disaster management among their priorities - and should cover communities near public highways. Noud van Hout, from Arusha, said to avoid such disasters there should be enough warning signs on roads.
"Also, there should be a law that stealing petrol - even from a tanker that is leaking - is punishable by at least three months imprisonment, he proposed. This is, of course, assuming that the petty fuel thieves would not have died in the fire that usually results from tankers involved in road accidents!
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