Written by Staff Writer at CNN
A fire at a fuel depot in Sierra Leone has claimed the lives of 115 people, authorities said Sunday.
The deaths — which include security personnel working at the site — were caused by the effects of inhaling fumes from the burning oil, according to Flood, a local environmental conservation group that has been helping to relocate affected families.
The death toll is expected to rise with more people still reported to be in the hospital.
“While the overall number of casualties has reached 115 by now, the actual number would rise as more people are still in the hospital,” Flood said in a statement.
Tens of thousands of people have been displaced by the tragedy. Flood estimates that the government will need to pay $17 million in compensation to the victims to cover their immediate needs. It is looking into ways to distribute the funds.
“We have met with affected families, hospitals and the health ministry. We are working on how we can distribute funds to people in need, such as food, clothes and shelter,” Flood said.
“We are also working with the education and religious institutions to ensure that affected children and youth continue with normal school routines as they build new communities.”
People have been rallying to assist with relief efforts. A crowdfunding campaign has raised over $8,000 in just a few days, Flood said.
“(The appeal) would not have been possible without the support of so many Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad,” Flood said.
Officials have blamed the blast on militant Islamists known as Ansarul Islam, who have claimed responsibility for previous attacks against fuel companies in the country.
Ansarul Islam leader Abubakar Bagudu issued a statement on jihadist Telegram earlier saying the attack was in retaliation for an attempt to kill one of its commanders earlier this month.
CNN’s Adam Jourdan contributed to this report.