As the tanker moved on at a snail’s pace with more fuel leaking, bodaboda motorcyclists merrily hooted and phoned their colleagues to take jerrycans and buckets to tap the free fuel.
Ever eager to make an extra buck, the cyclists pursued the trailer in anticipation of a fuel bonanza.
Nobody could tell where the fire came from, but witnesses talked of hearing a loud explosion as the tanker, two other cars and a horde of cyclists were engulfed in the blue flames.
When the inferno died down, over 20 charred bodies lay amidst the twisted and blackened frames of the motorcycles. More people lay dead in the Lubigi swamp where they had apparently fled to escape the blaze.
The inferno also consumed some passers-by and motorists who failed to escape the towering flames and choking smoke.
Most victims were burnt beyond recognition.
Uganda Police said 33 people – mainly bodaboda riders – had been confirmed killed in the fire, which also destroyed about 20 motorcycles on Saturday night at Namungoona on the Northern Bypass.
Police were last night still combing the nearby swamp for bodies, while those of the unidentified victims were taken to the Mulago Hospital mortuary.
An estimated 30 people were admitted at Mulago Hospital with severe burns. Hundreds of people milled about the hospital as they sought to ascertain the fate of their loved ones.
The death toll, according to sources at Mulago, was expected to rise as many survivors suffered severe burns.
“The bodaboda cyclists and locals were using jerrycans and basins to tap fuel when one of the motorbikes’ exhaust pipe came into contact with the fuel, igniting the inferno,” narrated a witness.
– Simon Masaba, New Vision