Painful moment as victims of tanker blast count losses

Sunday August 18 2019

A grieving family: Ms Sharifa Abudu (left) sits

A grieving family: Ms Sharifa Abudu (left) sits with her relative on Sume Street in Morogoro Municipality -- one of the areas where the tanker fire claimed many lives a week ago. Sharifa’s 12-year-old son died in the raging fire, whose death toll has hit 94. PHOTO | LILIAN LUCAs 

By Lilian Lucas @TheCitizenTZ news@thecitizen.co.tz

Morogoro. Small remnants of burned-out wreckage of motorbikes and other property are the only signs left of Itigi Msanvu, a formerly vibrant area in Morogoro town now turned into a scene from hell where more than 90 people died following a fuel tanker inferno a week ago.

In June when Ms Fatuma Ramadhani started her food vending kiosk in the area, her hopes were to grow big and raise more income to feed her family. Little did she know that on one morning, hell would visit in a way that she never would have seen coming.

She speaks to The Citizen a week after she witnessed a fuel tanker overturn close to her kiosk and later burst into a sea of flames on Saturday August 10, leaving a throng of people scrambling out to save their lives. The lucky ones escaped but her memory is full of images of those who were swallowed by the furious flames.

Fatuma survived to tell the tale. She is among the many women who were selling food to bodoboda riders who used to park at the now deserted area.

The stage was popular with passengers from either side of the highway and led to Morogoro Bus Station.

The scene was still cordoned yesterday as Tanzanians await the results of a probe team which was tasked by the government to investigate the disaster.

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However, business in the area may never be the same again. Life has quickly changed and no more business may thrive there, says Fatuma. “When the lorry overturned, many people rushed to scramble for leaking fuel, oblivious of the lurking danger. We are now speaking of many families and manpower lost,’’ she says.

“I thank God that I am alive today. But my buckets, basins, plates, jerry cans and all the food I had prepared for my customers that morning went up in flames as did four other food kiosks here. They are all gone. Our customers were the passersby from the bus station, nobody passes there anymore,” she says.

“I have decided to relocate to another area, but I think I will need more time to get used to a new place and customers,’’ she says. As Fatuma recalls the disaster and the pain of beginning from scratch with her business, other families in Morogoro town are still mourning the death of their dependable relatives in the tanker tragedy.

Mr Edwin Mjungu, 54, from Mzambalauni Street lost his wife Lidya Anyitike, 52, who had been assisting him to drive his charcoal business to feed her family of five children. “Until now, I haven’t set my eyes on her. I have gone to check at the hospital in vain,’’ says Mjumgu, as tears run down his cheeks. “She had gone to buy bites for us from food vendors that morning. I was told by neighbours that she was crossing near the lorry and might have been burnt in the fire. I feel like I have lost the pillar of my family. I don’t think my charcoal business will stand again,” he says.

Mr Christina Gaspa Tarimo a shopkeeper, says, “Those food vendors who used to parade in that area had a lot of customers who would also come to buy bottled water, airtime, juice and sodas from our shops. It’s like they all disappeared with the fire.” “Most of those who died are bodaboda riders from Sume Street. I believe many of their children have been orphaned by this disaster,’’ says Christina.

The pain seems to be worse for Mr Sharifa Abdu who lost his 12-year old son, a standard five pupil, Jumanne Hemed, who had been going for tuition at the time.

“My child was far from the area. But one person who was already engulfed by the fire was running and accidentally spread the fire to my child whose clothes caught fire too. He died while receiving treatment,” says Sharifa.