Morogoro. Mfaume Mrisho is a 13-year-old pupil at Mafisa Primary School at Msamvu on the outskirts of Morogoro Town.
He is not only happy to have survived the August 10th fuel tanker fire that has so far claimed over 100 lives, but also he is happy to likely be the first of tens of survivors admitted to hospitals in Morogoro and Dar es Salaam to be discharged after treatment.
Although traumatized by the early morning inferno when an overturned oil tanker caught fire, the soft spoken Mfaume looked certain to be released after two weeks of intensive hospital care.
The overturning of the tanker, the struggle by scores of people to scoop free fuel and subsequent fire still remained fresh in his mind.
He was rushed from one hospital to another before he was admitted at the regional hospital where he and 17 other patients are being treated for severe fire burns.
Unlike other patients with ghastly sights due to the burns, the standard six pupil looked to be on the road to full recovery with only wounds on both his arms.
He was on his way to his Mafisa A Primary School from his parents’ home just near the highway where the tragedy had occurred.
He saw people rushing to the site where the tanker had overturned to draw the fuel.
By mere curiosity, as is always the case with people living close to the highways, he found himself there. But he said he was “at a distance” from the spot of the leaking tanker.
“After half an hour, there was a loud bang. We started running in all directions. There was a melee as those closer and already burning rushed from the centre.
“As the fire spread across,I was trampled down by two people, whose clothes or bodies had caught fire.
“Some flames leaped on my body as the air was filled with petrol”, he told The Citizen from the hospital bed on Friday.
To escape further danger, he took to his heels back home as scores of those who could not make good of their running skills were rudely consumed by fire.
He could not find his parents. His parents were outside with his mother already at the market to sell foodstuffs. His ageing grand father had ordered every body out of the house just in case.
Finally, his ‘mama mdogo’ arrived at home, hired a boda boda and rushed the boy to a nearby ‘small’ hospital.
“I was rushed to another hospital in down town but also turned away. Finally, I was brought here. My mother joined me almost immediately”, he explained.
The third born in a family of five said he was lucky to be alive the way he saw people burning. He said he was not aware if any pupil from his school had been caught up by the killer fire.
A surgeon with the Morogoro regional hospital Dr. Francis Semwene confirmed yesterday that Mfaume was likely to be discharged from the hospital any time from now on,
“No victim of the fire burns has ever been discharged since about 70 of them were admitted to hospitals on August 10th”, he said.
Thirty two of 47 who were rushed to the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) had died by yesterday. They were in critical condition compared to those left in the Morogoro hospital.
The chairman of Sume neighbourhood, Hamisi Totoro, confirmed that although the spot, where the horrific fire occurred, had food kiosks, none of their operators died.
So were the mechanics working in unofficial roadside garages adjacent to the area and women operating food kiosks.
Both of them had either been forewarned to keep away from the leaking tanker or had not opened businesses by the time the tragedy struck.
“The accident happened much earlier in the day. Several eating joints had not started business,” he told The Citizen.
Nonetheless, 23 of the 100 people who perished in the horror were from other areas of Sume hamlet but were not operators of businesses burnt out.
“We have carried out door-to-door census. Those who died were not owners of garages or food kiosks at the site.
“Even if they were mechanics or food vendors, they operated from other sites in this area,” he told The Citizen on Thursday.
A resident of the area hinted that the death toll might have been higher had the accident happened during the afternoon when the Msamvu area was thronged by many people; being travellers, hawkers, students and hangers-on.