At least 7 killed in Haiti tanker truck explosion

Haitians look at the damage after an explosion at a gas station in Hinche, 110 kilometers (65 miles) from Port-au-Prince, on March 17, 2016, in which at least seven people were killed (AFP Photo/Hector Retamal)

Port-au-Prince (AFP) - At least seven people were killed and about 30 others seriously burned Thursday in Haiti when a tanker truck transporting fuel for the Total oil company caught fire and exploded.

The accident took place in the town of Hinche, 110 kilometers (65 miles) northeast of the capital Port-au-Prince, Haiti's Civil Defense office said.

Witnesses told AFP that the tanker truck hit a wall and spilled fuel as it was preparing to unload at a Total service station.

The flammable liquid spread and caught fire when it reached vendors cooking food on outdoor grills. The flames quickly returned to the tanker, which set off the explosion.

Seven people died on the spot, and the burn victims were rushed to area hospitals and to Port-au-Prince for treatment, the Civil Defense office said.

"I saw people screaming as they were being burned alive, and no one could come to their aid," a motorcycle taxi driver told AFP.

Hinche, like many Haitian towns outside of the capital, has no fire department.

"Blue Helmet" soldiers with the United Nations stabilization force rushed to the scene and were able to contain the blaze.

Four homes neighboring the service station also went up in flames, and 22 vehicles were destroyed, local authorities said in a preliminary assessment.

The truck was an independent carrier that loaded up with Total oil and delivered it to service stations, but "did not belong to Total," a spokesman for the French oil company told AFP, correcting earlier reports.

The vehicle had been inspected and met all safety standards, the spokesman said.