Africa

Libya: Fuel blast 'kills 50 in Sirte'

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Media captionFootage showed flames and a plume of smoke rising from the depot

An explosion at a fuel tank has left more than 50 people dead in the Libyan city of Sirte, officials and residents say, after an apparent accident.

National Transitional Council (NTC) commander Leith Mohammed said the blast happened late on Monday.

"There was an enormous explosion and a huge fire," he was quoted as telling AFP, adding that there were "dozens of charred bodies" at the scene.

The explosion happened as a crowd waited nearby to fill their cars.

Local officials believe a spark from a nearby generator caused the fuel tank to explode, the BBC's Katya Adler reports.

Images from the scene showed residents carrying human remains away on stretchers as plumes of black smoke continued to rise from the tank.

The exact number of people who were killed and injured in the explosion was not yet clear.

According to one NTC official and the Syria-based Al-Rai television station, more than 100 people died.

An NTC spokesman said a cabinet minister would provide further details in a news conference later in the day, the Associated Press reports.

One eyewitness quoted by AP said that at least 11 people were brought to the town's Ibn Sina Hospital with serious burns.

Sirte, the devastated hometown of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, was the last bastion of resistance to NTC forces and the site of his capture last week.

Fierce fighting over the last few weeks had caused the majority of residents to flee.

They had begun to trickle back in recent days but few are expected to stay, our correspondent reports. Human Rights Watch has warned that fighters loyal to the NTC are carrying out revenge attacks in what they view as a very pro-Gaddafi town.

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