Caritas Office in Sierra Leone Sets Up Emergency Support for Tanker Explosion Victims

Credit: Fr. Peter Konteh

Caritas Freetown in Sierra Leone is supplying medical equipment and food to victims of the November 5 tank explosion that has reportedly killed 115 people in the country’s capital city.

In a report shared with ACI Africa Tuesday, November 9, officials of the charity arm of the Archdiocese of Freetown say the intervention seeks to boost the efforts of the health facilities that have been set aside to provide treatment to the victims of the explosion that occurred in Wellington Industrial Estate.

“Caritas has started emergency support with a team of medical staff with equipment and medicines, and a volunteer rescue team to address the immediate medical, psychosocial and material needs for the affected victims,” the officials say, adding that they had already dispatched a team of clinical staff and volunteers to help at the hospitals.

The Caritas office has also provided supplies including Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), syringes, gloves, and water to complement efforts of other rescue workers and hospitals that have admitted victims.

Additionally, the office has set up a daily feeding initiative for victims of the explosion as well as the health practitioners and volunteers that are tending to the victims.


Officials of Caritas Freetown narrate that the November 5 explosion occurred at around 9.10 p.m. when a tanker loaded with flammable fuel collided with a tipper truck that was loaded with granite stones.

Oozing fuel from the tanker is said to have attracted youth, area squatters, commercial bike riders, taxi drivers, by- standers and pedestrians who rushed at the scene with empty tins and jerry cans to fetch the discharged fuel. 

“Minutes later, there was a massive explosion of flames that degenerated to affect vehicles and passengers in a queue of congested road traffic in circumstance where there was no alternative route to escape the irresistible intensity that had engulfed the neighborhood,” the officials narrate in the five-page titled “Situational report on Wellington fire emergency update.”

All passengers on a mini passenger bus loaded with travelers are also said to have been caught in the devastation and perished alongside those who had ran to the scene to fetch the fuel.

Additionally, night traders, riders and other people who were near the scene of the incident are said to have been caught in the middle of the inferno. 

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Caritas Freetown partnered with other agencies including the Office of National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) to investigate the impact and magnitude of the fire disaster that involved the explosion of a fuel tanker which killed 91 people on the spot, leaving hundreds others with injuries. 

According to the report that the charity arm of the Church in Freetown shared with ACI Africa, over 400 people have been affected by the explosion.

Over 200 victims were hospitalized in different hospitals around Freetown and outside the capital city of Sierra Leone, according to the report.

In the report, Caritas officials have expressed the urgent need for support of the victims of the fire, which they say has left scores of families without breadwinners.

On Sunday, November 7, Pope Francis expressed his spiritual solidarity with the victims of the explosion saying, “I secure my prayer after the explosion of a petroleum tanker in Sierra Leone.”


Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Freetown, Edward Tamba Charles who doubles as the Vice Chair of the Interreligious Council in Sierra Leone joined other religious leaders in conducting the Monday, November 8 burial of those who perished in the inferno.

Being a member of the response pillars that include registration, food/nutrition and relief items, shelter and WASH, Caritas Freetown continues providing humanitarian actions towards the fire disaster response in the country.

“Caritas cares for children, women, lactating mothers, pregnant women, persons living with disabilities and the aged affected by infernos and other emergencies,” the situation report shared with ACI Africa indicates.

The charity entity notes that since January 2021, residents in Freetown have experienced “enormous fire disasters that have destroyed homes, properties and lives.”

“Thousands of families have been shattered by the huge fatalities incurred from intermittent infernos, and Caritas Freetown has been leading response to these fire disasters,” the officials of the charity entity report, adding that in 2021 alone, they have reached out to fire victims in Susan’s Bay, Kingtom Bomeh, Culvert Community, Grandcess Street, KrooBay and in the Wellington Industrial Estate. 

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Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.