34 people have now died as a result of a tanker truck explosion on Christmas Eve close to eastern Johannesburg, including 10 medical personnel working at a nearby hospital, according to officials.
When the truck, which was carrying gas, became stuck beneath a low-lying bridge in the town of Boksburg, it set fire to itself. Emergency services officials claim that the tanker exploded as firefighters attempted to put out the fires.
According to authorities, a “fire bomb” from the explosion severely damaged Tambo Memorial Hospital, which is about 100 meters (110 yards) away.
Several medical personnel were in the parking lot of the hospital, some preparing to leave after their shifts and others attempting to move their cars away from the fire.
Along with the fatalities, the hospital’s emergency room and X-ray department reportedly suffered severe harm, according to Minister of Health Joe Phaahla.
Residents who had gathered to watch the burning truck also perished. Though some were later transferred to other hospitals in the Johannesburg region, at least 321 injured people were brought to the damaged hospital.
According to officials, the explosion also caused damage to a number of homes and automobiles.
All those killed in the accident were remembered at a memorial service held by the South Africa Council of Churches.
A few days after the collision, the 32-year-old truck driver was arrested but later released by authorities who claimed there wasn’t enough information to charge him.
Officials claim that the tanker truck was transporting liquefied petroleum gas, which is used for cooking and heating in homes and businesses, from the South African port of Richards Bay in the Indian Ocean to Botswana.
The driver was not careless, according to Innovative Staff Solutions, the company that had hired him. He was taking the right turns to return to the highway after taking a wrong turn. He stopped and predicted that the truck would pass under the bridge despite the fact that the clearance for the bridge was not visible. However, he did not factor in that the back end of the truck would rise as the front fell in a dip. He collapsed from breathing in the gas fumes just before the explosion, and an ambulance was called to take him away, according to the local media.
Tania Campbell, mayor of the municipality of Ekurhuleni, which includes Boksburg, said that the incident would be investigated.