Monday 27 January 2020

22 killed and 111 injured after Saudi fuel truck hits flyover

Angus McDowall

AT least 22 people were killed when a fuel truck crashed into a flyover in the Saudi capital Riyadh today, triggering an explosion that brought down an industrial building, Saudi state television reported.

Al-Ekhbariya television quoted a Saudi civil defence official as saying that at least 111 people were also injured in the incident.

The civil defence department confirmed there were deaths from a traffic accident involving a gas tanker that hit a bridge in eastern Riyadh, causing a gas leak and an explosion in a nearby heavy machinery and vehicles warehouse, according to the state news agency SPA.

"The truck driver was surprised by a road accident on its route, causing it to crash into one of the pillars of the bridge," spokesman Captain Mohamed Hubail Hammadi said.

He said the incident resulted in a "number of deaths and injuries", without giving specific details.

The civil defence chief, Saed al-Tweijri, said the fire had been brought under control. He blamed the tanker driver for the accident, which he said had resulted in the gas leak setting off an explosion in the warehouse.

The building, several storeys high, was almost levelled by the blast, with only one corner left standing. Several adjacent buildings were damaged and nearby vehicles, including a minibus on the flyover, set on fire, witnesses said.

Television footage and pictures posted on social media showed a body lying by burnt-out vehicles and at least two charred bodies seated in a car.

More than 100 emergency personnel were combing the wreckage on the flyover and searching for victims in the rubble of the building, which housed the operations of Zahid Tractor, a distributor of heavy machinery.

"I was inside the building when the blast came. Then boom, the building collapsed. Furniture, chairs and cabinets blasted into the room I was in," said survivor Kushnoo Akhtara, a 55-year-old Pakistani worker, who was covered in dirt and bleeding from multiple cuts over his body. "My brother is still inside under the rubble. There are lots of people in there."

Saudi Arabia is still on holiday after the Muslim Eid al-Adha feast, which began last Friday.


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