At least 62 people have been killed in a fuel tanker explosion in eastern Tanzania, authorities have confirmed.
The incident happened at Morogoro, around 120 miles west of the capital Dar es Salaam.
Local taxi drivers and residents started looting the tanker after it crashed on the outskirts of the village earlier today.
The fuel tanker exploded as dozens of people attempted to siphon fuel from the stricken truck in Morogoro, Tanzania earlier today
Flames and smoke from the blast rose more than 100 feet into the air
A fireball destroyed several motorbikes within a 50-ft radius of the explosion site
Morogoro governor Stephen Kebwe confirmed the bodies of 60 victims have been taken to the morgue at the local hospital. At least 70 people are being treated for burns.
However, Mr Kebwe warned the death toll could increase further if there are more bodies underneath the smoldering remains of the truck.
He said the truck exploded when one person attempted to loot its battery, however, another witness suggested a man siphoning off fuel was smoking a cigarette while filling a jerry can with petrol.
Regional police chief Willbrod Mtfungwa said: ‘There was a big blast which has so far killed at least 57 people.’
Moments before the blast, dozens of people were collecting fuel from the crashed tanker
More than 70 people were rushed to hospital having been wounded in the explosion
Mtafungwa said the dead were mainly drivers of the taxis known as ‘boda-boda’ and local residents flocking to the scene for the fuel after the crash.
The victims were believed to have been collecting leaking fuel from the tanker which began leaking after being involved in an earlier accident.
Footage posted online showed people with buckets and basins trying to gather fuel from the tanker which was flowing down the street.
A spark ignited the fuel causing a massive explosion. Badly charred bodies were seen in the area surrounding the destroyed tanker.
As well as the 57 fatalities, a further 65 have been injured.
Eyewitness Daniel Ngogo said: ‘The situation is really bad. Many people died, here even those who were not stealing fuel because this is a busy place.
‘The fire was huge and it was challenging to rescue victims. I have seen about 65 to 70 people being rescued because the fire was fast spreading across the accident area.’
As soon as the flames were doused emergency workers removed the bodies from the area surrounding the truck and brought them to the centre of the town.
A distressing video, which has been shared online, shows the badly charred bodies of the victims being dumped beside the hospital before being taken into the morgue. The intensity of the fire burned the clothes off the victims, leaving many completely naked.
Victims were removed from the scene on stretchers following this morning’s massive blast
The fuel tanker exploded killing almost 60 people in Morogoro, eastern Tanzania
Mr Kebwe said: ‘The Morogoro region had never experienced a disaster of such magnitude.’
He said the tanker truck overturned on the roadside and the ‘fuel began to flow freely’.
He added: ‘We have mobilised all the doctors at the Morogoro regional hospital so the wounded can be treated.’
Such disasters are not uncommon in Africa.
Last month, at least 45 people were killed and more than 100 injured in central Nigeria when a petrol tanker crashed and then exploded as people were trying to gather fuel.
In May, a similar incident occurred in Niger just a short distance from the airport in the capital Niamey, leaving almost 80 people dead.
Among the deadliest such disasters, 292 people lost their lives in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in July 2010, and in September 2015 at least 203 people perished in the town of Maridi in South Sudan.