As the world turns its calendar to November 5, 2023, the people of Sierra Leone mark a solemn occasion, remembering the tragic events that unfolded on this day two years ago. It was a day that forever etched itself into the collective memory of the nation, leaving scars that are slow to heal.

On November 5, 2021, a horrifying incident unfolded near Sierra Leone’s capital that shook the nation to its core. An oil tanker truck, heavy with its flammable cargo, erupted into a devastating explosion. The toll was unthinkable – at least 98 lives lost and dozens more left with severe injuries, a grim reminder of the fragility of human life.

The catastrophe took place under the night’s dark shroud when the oil tanker collided with another truck. It was en route to a gas station near a bustling intersection in Wellington, just east of the capital, Freetown. Both drivers, recognizing the impending danger, heroically attempted to alert nearby residents and pleaded with them to keep a safe distance as they grappled with a dangerous fuel leak stemming from the collision.

Tragically, in the face of this perilous situation, the inherent struggles of an impoverished nation emerged. Large crowds descended upon the scene, compelled by the opportunity to collect leaking fuel, despite the warnings. It remains unclear what triggered the ignition of the volatile fuel, but the result was a cataclysmic explosion that rent the night sky, illuminating the horrors that unfolded.

Video footage from that fateful night captured a colossal fireball, a terrifying beacon in the darkness, as the cries of survivors, their bodies seared by the ferocious flames, filled the air. Among the wreckage, charred remains of the victims lay strewn, awaiting the solemn journey to mortuaries.

The aftermath saw the swift mobilization of rescue efforts, with nearly 100 injured individuals rushed to area hospitals. In Connaught Hospital, the situation was heart-wrenching, as approximately 30 severely burned patients in the intensive care unit faced slim chances of survival.

Today, as we stand two years removed from that catastrophic day, we remember the victims of the Wellington Fuel Tanker Fire Disaster. We pay our respects to the lives lost and honor the strength and resilience of the survivors and their families, who continue to bear the emotional and physical scars of that night.

It is a reminder that while time marches forward, the memory of this tragedy remains etched in the hearts of Sierra Leoneans. We remember, we mourn, and we reiterate our commitment to ensuring that such a catastrophe is never repeated. The nation’s collective strength and solidarity are a testament to its ability to heal and rebuild, even in the face of such devastating loss.

May the victims rest in peace, and may the survivors find solace and support as they continue their journey towards recovery