Sat, Feb 03, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Truck explosion kills dozens in the southern Philippines

AFP , PAGADIAN, PHILIPPINES

Around 30 people were killed yesterday when a truck exploded in the southern Philippines, destroying a passing bus packed with passengers, officials said.

Body parts were scattered over a wide area after the massive blast, which killed the truck driver and an unknown number of bus passengers. The death toll could reach 50 with bodies difficult to count, officials said.

A reporter at the scene said he saw a leg hanging from a tree and a severed head in a ravine, with pieces of flesh and intestines lying on the road.

Only the smoldering chassis of the truck remained, making it difficult to determine the kind of vehicle involved.

Regional military chief Colonel Emmanuel Sison said explosives experts indicated that the tanker may have been carrying carbon dioxide and caustic soda rather than liquefied gas as had been thought at first.

Sison said the delivery truck swerved and slammed into a hillside. While bystanders tried to help the driver and his passenger, a commuter bus passing through the area was caught when the truck's cargo suddenly exploded.

Survivor Dexter Yabo said he and his brother were in a car heading to Pagadian when they witnessed the explosion.

"The truck suddenly swerved. We got out of our vehicle and tried to help but when we were some 30m away, we heard someone yelling, `It's exploding.' And then there was a powerful blast," Yabo said as he was being treated in hospital. "When the smoke cleared, we saw people wounded, crying for help. The cargo truck was gone."

More than 30 people were injured, many of them seriously. Ambulances, private vehicles and a military truck ferried casualties to Pagadian City Hospital.

The accident happened at around noon in the poor farming town of Tigpao, south of Pagadian on the island of Mindanao.

Sison said the blast appeared to be an accident and was not caused by foul play.

Regional police chief Jaime Caringal was quoted by local media as saying the driver of the truck had slowed down after other drivers told him there was a fire under the vehicle.

He said the truck exploded before he could stop a bus passing by, which took the full force of the explosion.

"We don't know the exact number of casualties as they were rushed to different hospitals," Caringal said.

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