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The Desperate Conditions that Led to Freetown’s Tragedy

More than 100 people were killed by an explosion in Freetown, Sierra Leone, last week, after a leaking fuel tanker collided with a lorry on a busy road in the capital city. Many of those who died were young motorbike taxi drivers, after dozens of riders rushed to the leaking tanker to collect free petrol and were caught in the blast. The tanker and lorry drivers tried to keep people away but could not stop the crowd. Half an hour later, it was too late. As three days of national mourning, which began on Monday, come to a close, we must remember this is not an isolated incident or freak accident. It is one more chapter in a long story that could have been different. Scores of young bike riders lost their lives, and many others were burned and maimed as a consequence of rising fuel and food costs and the pressures on informal workers from those in charge.