The commander of the Liberia National Police Totota Detail, Moufee Jabateh, was one of those who were caught up in the tragic gasoline tanker blast that took place in Totota, Bong County on Tuesday, December 26. Also among those affected by the explosion was the commander of the Community Watch Forum of the area, Korvah Juker.
The tragic gas tanker blast has already claimed the lives of at least 40 individuals.
Commander Jabateh, who is currently receiving intensive medical care in Ganta, explained that he and Juker had gone to the accident scene to prevent looting and control the crowd when they were caught in the explosion.
“When I came from Gbarnga, the accident had just occurred, but the citizens were rushing in to loot the gas, so the Community Watch Forum Commander and I went on the scene to drive them away,” Jabateh said. “The crowd became so huge and uncontrollable… and suddenly the fallen tanker exploded, leaving everyone in disarray.”
Fortunately, they survived, although they suffered significant burns. “It is God who led me out of that place. I would have died,” Jabateh said in a very low voice surrounded by family members.
Dr. Albert Willicor, who is treating the two victims, confirmed that they are conscious and able to recount what happened.
“We received two of the victims, and they are conscious and explaining their own experiences,” Dr. Willicor added.
Commander Jabateh sustained burns on 35% of his body surface, while Commander Juker’s burns covered 60% of his body surface. The exact number of casualties from the incident is still unknown, with varying speculations.
Some reports suggest that at least 40 people have lost their lives so far. The owner of the tanker, Mr. Odashall Oldpa Karnue, a popular businessman in Nimba County, is said to be deeply distressed by the loss but has yet not made any public statement.
“When I came from Monrovia and arrived in Totota, they told me that my son Korvah got burned while driving the citizens from around the tanker, but I thank God that he lived,” said Alvin Juker, a father to Korvah.
He explained how he saw several bodies covered with tarpaulin, including pregnant women and children, and several motorcycles were seen burnt beyond repair.
“More of the bodies I saw were unrecognizable, making it impossible for family members to identify their lost relatives,” said Othello S. Bartuah, an eyewitness who traveled to Ganta.
The incident has caused sadness throughout Ganta, and some individuals believe that the lawless behavior of citizens in response to accidents is a contributing factor. People are calling on the government to take measures to discourage such behavior and ensure the safety of accident victims.
“This is actually bad for our country at this time of the year, to see people dying in such huge numbers,” Prof. Edwin Kruah, a renowned instructor in the area, said. “The government needs to put a mechanism to deter people from this lawless attitude.”
Sekou Bamba Jabateh, the brother of the police commander, is urging the authorities to airlift the seriously wounded victims and take full responsibility for their treatment. He also emphasized the importance of staying away from accident sites to avoid further incidents.
The Gbarnga-Kakata Highway has been recognized as a vulnerable and dangerous route, where accidents often lead to looting. There have been allegations that so-called rescuers along the highway may even harm unconscious victims and steal their valuables.