South Sudan oil tanker blast 'kills 170'

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At least 170 people have been killed after an oil tanker exploded in South Sudan, officials say.

The tanker had veered off the road in Maridi, Western Equatoria state, and local residents were siphoning off the fuel when the vehicle exploded, they said.

At least 50 people are reported to have been injured.

Local hospitals have been overwhelmed, and state officials have appealed to the Red Cross and the UN for help.

The tanker was travelling from the capital Juba and was close to Maridi, some 250km (155 miles) away, when it came off the road and overturned.

Maradi county commissioner Wilson Thomas Yanga told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that while the driver went to the nearest town to get help, local residents had descended on the tanker to collect some of the petrol it contained.

He said it was not yet clear what caused the explosion.

Mr Yanga confirmed the death toll had risen to 176, and said officials feared the true number of wounded was not yet known as many may have fled the scene.

Doctors and medical staff were flying in from across the country to help with the emergency, he added.

Local doctor Chandi Savior told Radio Tamazuj that they were low on supplies of basics such as oxygen and pain killers.

He said many people had arrived with burns and they were "not really able to calm down this pain".

South Sudan became an independent country in 2011, after a peace deal with Sudan that ended Africa's longest-running civil war.

But the country is one of the poorest in Africa, and more than 2.2 million people have been forced to flee their homes because of a conflict between government troops and rebel factions.

A tentative internationally-mediated peace agreement was signed in August but the ceasefire has already been violated.