Saturday, July 3, 2010

Petroleum Tanker Crashes, Burns: Hundreds Dead

America's Independence Day is tomorrow. On the whole, I'd rather live in this country than in any other: and I think the Fourth of July is a pretty big deal.

I'm also a Catholic, so my notion of 'who is my neighbor' is - catholic. And I think I rambled more than usual in this post. So -

You Can Help

If you don't read anything else in this post, read this - There's been a terrible accident in South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Folks living there can use help.

Aid to the Church in Need is operating in that part of the world. ( If you're able to help them financially - I can think of much worse ways to spend your money. Just a thought.

Bad News From South Kivu Province

Yesterday afternoon the driver of a tanker truck hauling oil tried to pass a bus. Then the tanker tipped over. It may not have been entirely the driver's fault: the roads in that area aren't in the best condition.

The accident happened in a town where quite few folks were watching the world soccer games on television. Many of those who weren't watching clustered around the overturned truck, trying to collect the spilled petroleum.

One of them was smoking.

Over 230 people are dead as a result of the explosion and subsequent fires.

Excerpts from the news:
"...'Petrol began to leak out but instead of fleeing people came to collect the fuel,' Mr [Tondo] Sahizira said.

" 'A few minutes later there was an explosion, flames burst from the truck and spread very quickly.'

"Several homes with thatched roofs were engulfed in flames, as was the cinema where a crowd had gathered to watch the World Cup. ..."

"...They described scenes of devastation in the town of Sange, where houses were burned and bodies littered the streets. Some people died while trying to steal fuel leaking from the tanker, but most were killed at home or watching World Cup soccer in cinemas.

"Many of the bodies were charred beyond recognition.

"United Nations helicopters began airlifting injured people to hospital, while Congo's army, which lost a number of men in the blast, has sent soldiers in to help with the rescue.

" 'Our latest numbers are 230 dead and 196 injured,' Madnodje Mounoubai, a spokesman for the U.N. mission, said. Congo's government also gave the same number of dead....

"...The tanker flipped over Friday afternoon, said Omalanga, the country's minister of communications. It was attempting to overtake a bus in Sange, in South Kivu province, on the country's eastern border,

"When oil began to spill from the overturned tanker, local residents attempted to collect the oil. One was smoking a cigarette, causing the tanker to explode, Omalanga said.

"The largest group of victims had been sitting in a bar near the accident site watching the World Cup match between the Netherlands and Brazil, he said...."

Common Sense isn't All That Common

It's not the first time that folks have gotten themselves killed in similar situations.
"...It was not immediately clear what caused the initial accident or later blast, but local people said the truck, which was part of a convoy, stopped when the road seemed to crumble, toppling the vehicle and spilling fuel. Fire then erupted...."

"...Roads in the area are notoriously bad after years of war and neglect in the vast central African nation.

" 'Some people were killed trying to steal the fuel, but most of the deaths were of people who were indoors watching the (World Cup) match,' [governor of South Kivu province, Marcellin] Cisambo said.

"There have been numerous similar accidents across Africa, where crowds gather around fuel tankers involved in crashes, only for the tanker to explode...."
Never mind the ethics of collecting/stealing oil from an overturned tanker: Smoking while you're working with an exposed pool of flammable liquid is just plain daft.

It's also, I suppose, a very human thing to do. In September of 2003, a construction crew cut through a gas line in the small town I live in. The public utilities folks shut off power in that part of town, the leak was stopped, and nobody got hurt. The break happened downtown - and quite a few people went toward the break. They were curious, I suppose. I would have been, myself.

The point is that people don't always use "common sense."

'No Man is an Island' Had a Point

John Donne's phrase, "No Man is an Island" - a little excerpt plucked from a greater whole1 - points out that: "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." Like the song says: "we're all in this together.
A Short Digression
That bit from Donne was repeated with variations over and over again in the sixties: but what Donne wrote some 386 years ago goes 'way beyond that period's groovy feelings.

My religious beliefs require me to be "involved in mankind" - although I find it easier to care for people who are more-or-less like me. Like the folks living in Ziarat.

I can't act as if 'real Americans' are actual people; and foreigners are, well, foreigners. I also can't be 'relevant,' or whatever it's called these days, and regard people and institutions as valuable and correct to the extent that they're not American.

I'm required to care about people. Even if they're Americans - and even if they're not.

(paraphrased from a post in another blog.)

So What?

There isn't much I can do for the folks in Sange. By now the dead are most likely being buried, the wounded are - I trust - receiving the care they need, and soccer fans have found television sets that didn't get burned.

I don't, personally, have the resources to reach across the ocean and help.

I can, and do, pray for those who died. And for those who survived.

The decision is strictly up to you: but you could think about doing the same.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo province of South Kivu borders on Rwanda and Burundi. Its capital is Bukavu, and folks in that area haven't been having a good time lately. Besides warfare, there was a severe earthquake in 2008.

If you're in a position to do something more "practical," an outfit called Aid to the Church in Need is operating in that part of the world. So are others - but ACN ( is one place to start, if you want to help.

More-or-less-related posts:In the news:

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.