Liberia: Hospital Treating Tanker Blast Victims Appeal for Assistance

 Dr. Minnie Sankawolo-Ricks and Dr. Cynthia  Blapooh 

Phebe Hospital, which is at the center of the response to the recent gas tanker explosion in Totota, Lower Bong County, is appealing for continued support as the death toll rises. The tragic incident, which took place on December 26 in Totota, has resulted in widespread destruction and loss of life. Among the victims were a pregnant woman, her daughter, and her husband.

In a press briefing on December 28, Dr. Cynthia Blapooh and Dr. Minnie Sankawolo-Ricks of the Bong County Health Team and Phebe Hospital emphasized the need for more assistance to the facilities.

They explained that burns, which many of the victims suffered, require prolonged healing periods, sometimes lasting up to six months.

“We are calling for more assistance for our patients.  Any help you can give come to Phebe Hospital with it,” they noted. “The treatment of the victims of the explosion will take longer and we need the requisite equipment and medications to respond to the patients appropriately.”

The medical officers requested donations of medical supplies such as drugs, IV fluids, Metro infusion, IV Tubing, Cannula 18 G/20 G, as well as food for the patients.

Meanwhile, Liberia’s Chief Medical Officer and Deputy Minister for Health Services, Dr. Francis Kateh, confirmed an additional five deaths in Monrovia. Three of the deaths occurred at JFK Medical Center, one at ELWA Hospital, and one at 14 Military Hospital. Four deaths have also been reported in the community, pending investigation.

Kateh previously announced on December 27 that over 40 people lost their lives in the explosion. In the immediate aftermath, 83 patients were admitted to Phebe Referral Hospital, with three pronounced dead upon arrival.

Those who lost their lives during the explosion and immediately afterwards have since been buried in a mass grave in Totota.

The Liberia National Red Cross Society (LNRCS), along with the Ministry of Health and the local authorities of Bong County, organized the mass burial to lay the victims to rest.

With utmost respect and dignity, the Red Cross played a vital role in the recovery and burial process, ensuring that the ten lives lost, including those of the pregnant woman, were treated with care and reverence.

As the leading local humanitarian organization in the country, the LNRCS swiftly mobilized a team of emergency responders to work in close collaboration with the County Health Team and manage the aftermath of the explosion.

Also among the victims of the blast were the commander of the Totota Detail of the Liberia National Police, Moufee Jabateh, and the commander of the Community Watch Forum of the area, Korvah Juker — both who suffered significant burns. 

The duo, who are currently receiving intensive medical care in Ganta, said they had gone to the accident scene to prevent looting and control the crowd when the explosion took place.

Kateh warned that the death toll may increase as the house-to-house contact tracing continues.

Continued support from individuals, humanitarian organizations, and the wider community is crucial in ensuring adequate care for the victims of this devastating incident, Blapooh and Sanawolo-Ricks said.