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Tanker truck explosion kills 55 in Niger: ministry

Witnesses said people were trying to collect petrol leaking from the truck, which had overturned on railway tracks.

Passersby walk amid burned cars after an oil tanker exploded on a highway on June 28, 2018 in Lagos killing nine people in a huge blaze. Picture: AFP.

NIAMEY, Niger - Fifty-five people died in Niger's capital Niamey overnight when an overturned tanker truck exploded as crowds tried to collect spilt fuel, authorities and witnesses said on Monday.

The blast on the RN1 route near Niamey's international airport left the burnt truck's wreckage, motorbikes and debris scattered over the road. Nearby houses were also damaged by fire.

The toll from the explosion was 55 dead and 36 injured, an interior ministry spokesperson said.

"Motorbike riders and people were all around the truck when it exploded all of a sudden," a local trader said. "I saw at least 40 dead."

Witnesses said people were trying to collect petrol leaking from the truck, which had overturned on railway tracks, when the explosion happened.

"It just before midnight when I went out and I saw the truck overturned. People came from everywhere to take gas, then I saw fire on its side and everything burst into flames," a college student told AFP.

Niger, a poor West African country, has been trying to stamp out fuel smuggling from neighbouring Nigeria.

Nigeria, a major oil producer, has seen similar deadly accidents and explosions in the past when people try to steal fuel from oil pipelines.