At least 35 people have been killed in Benin after a fuel depot exploded into flames, sending a black cloud of smoke into the sky, according to officials and witnesses.
The fire broke out on Saturday at a warehouse for smuggled fuel in the town of Seme-Podji near the border with Nigeria, where cars, motorbikes, and tricycle taxis came to stock up on fuel, residents said.
A video of the fire widely circulated on social media, verified by Al Jazeera, shows a tower of black smoke and flames spewing into the air above what appears to be a marketplace as shocked people watch from a safe distance.
🚨[DRAME] Au #Bénin, un incendie s’est déclaré samedi dans un dépôt clandestin d’essence frelatée dans la localité de Sèmè-Kraké. Un premier bilan fait état de 33 morts (calcinés). 💔🇧🇯 pic.twitter.com/kzzL1JhEmM
— LSI AFRICA (@lsiafrica) September 23, 2023
Benin’s Interior Minister Alassane Seidou said the “cause of the fire is smuggled fuel”. He said the blaze left the bodies of the victims “badly charred”.