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Dozens killed or wounded after explosion in Haiti – MercoPress

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MercoPress, en Español
Montevideo, December 15th 2021 – 14:36 UTC
 
 
At least 60 people have been killed and dozens more were injured when a fuel truck blew up Monday night in the Samari area near Cap-Haitien, the country's second-largest city.
“We have now counted 60 deaths,” Deputy Mayor Patrick Almonor said on Tuesday, but he admitted the death toll could be far worse. Almonor also explained that the driver apparently lost control of his vehicle which began to swerve to avoid a motorcycle taxi and it flipped over, spilling fuel onto the road while pedestrians rushed to collect it.
Over 100 people were reported injured in the explosion which also burned about 20 homes nearby.
The incident occurred as Haiti is struggling with widespread fuel shortages and spiralling gas prices, caused in part by armed gangs that have set up blockades at fuel terminals in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and surrounding areas. Gang violence and political instability have skyrocketed in Haiti following the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. The country also has struggled to rebuild in the aftermath of a devastating, 7.2-magnitude earthquake in August.
“Three days of national mourning will be decreed throughout the territory, in memory of the victims of this tragedy that has devastated the entire Haitian nation,” Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry wrote on Twitter on Tuesday morning.
Mayor Pierre Yvrose described the situation as “critical” and called for additional resources. “We need human resources, and also material resources, namely, serum, gauze, and anything that can be used in case of serious burns,” Yvrose said.
Haiti has never produced enough electricity to meet the needs of the whole population. Even in well-off parts of the capital, the state-run Haiti electric utility provides, at most, only a few hours of power a day. Those who can afford it rely on pricey generators, which are no help in the face of the severe fuel shortage caused by gangs blocking access to the country’s oil terminals.
Earlier Monday thousands of Haitians had taken to the streets of Port-au-Prince against Henry’s Dec. 7 decision to increase the price of fuel.
“Since oil is a cross-cutting product, its increase also affects the prices of products that cover our basic needs,” a protester told the Haitian newspaper Gazette Haiti, insisting that 5,000 gourdes are needed to fill up the tank (nearly US $ 50), an amount that is difficult for workers to earn.
Planning Minister Ricard Pierre argued that the decision to increase the retail price of gasoline had been “taken in order to lighten the burden on the State.”
Meanwhile, Haiti’s Senate conveyed in a statement its concern about the situation and announced that they were working together with social and political groups to denounce the socioeconomic deterioration in the country.
Finance Minister Patrick Boisvert acknowledged the inability of the Government to adjust fuel prices at pump with the increase in the price of a barrel of oil in the international market. He also recalled that since 2010 the State had lost more than 150,000 million gourdes (US $ 1,321 million) due to oil subsidies.
Since the removal of fuel subsidies, which had been in force since 2005 when the country joined the Petrocaribe project, protests have taken place almost regularly.
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