Morogoro tanker fire horror: Lessons still come rolling in

23Aug 2019
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Morogoro tanker fire horror: Lessons still come rolling in

WITH many people fighting to put behind them memories of the Morogoro fuel tanker fire tragedy nearly two weeks ago, lessons keep coming in as to where the public or local residents around the scene of accident got it wrong on how to react.

As in many other instances, a single event can have a stream of lessons, at times learned by generations far apart, which can’t be told at the start. Something of the sort is now happening – that the issue isn’t touching only fuel but also the victims.

That constitutes part of what was generally learned when the tragedy struck – that the habit of turning spots where fuel trucks are involved in accident spots into looting ground is intolerably bad.

This wasn’t the first time this kind of situation had occurred, so those found there will likely be different and therefore without memories of what happened in the past. But that just cannot serve as defence.

But there are other, more elevated, lessons about the situation, and definitely other potential disaster sites that can occur for a variety of reasons in that fires can break out even without having fuel to propagate the flames.

It is the whole problem of how to assist victims of fire accidents, as it involves breathing fumes, and this causes damage to internal organs.

Experts at Muhimbili National Hospital have lately explained that when a person in that situation is covered up, the breathing fails and harkens fatality.

There is no doubt that these are lessons that a broad section of the  public will take to heart as the tragedy was indeed intense and far-reaching in its psychological impact, almost numbing the senses in trying to contemplate it.

The burning of upwards of 100 people who then proceed to die at different moments is a massive shock. Nations dread to think when such moments arrive, but they are integral to the passion, drama and tragedy of life.

Wisdom has it that dreading such events is one thing, and definitely it is painful imagination rather than prevention or remedy, where it is the lessons of past tragedies that ought to be of help in the future.

Members of the public must now be all the wiser and will hopefully desist from scrambling for free fuel if a tanker overturns. It is reported that another tanker overturned in Mbeya a few days after the Msamvu horror events and no one went anywhere near the scene. While trying to collect fuel in ignorance was a tragedy, doing so later would simply be inexplicably ridiculous.

With the detailed explanations given by Muhimbili National Hospital experts, it is vital to make more efforts to educate and sensitise the public on how to handle fire-related accident victims.

As advised, the patients should be helped to get fresh air rather than being covered up where their already weakened lungs struggle to inhale something positive and not fumes or the toxic air.

It is said that most of us aren’t familiar with first aid work, and there was no such kit in the ill-fated Msamvu truck of in the neighbourhood – so, small wonder that the first efforts were immersed in chaos. And let it be chaos from which we have learned important life-saving lessons.


SADC plans to end NTBs good for EAC integration


IT’S only since Tanzania assumed the chairmanship of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).

Already, and very rightly so, Foreign Affairs, East Africa, Regional and International Cooperation minister Prof Palamagamba Kabudi is outlining a programme of action aimed at establishing a framework to oversee the harmonisation of standards, policies, laws and regulations covering trade in the 16-member bloc. 

At least, this was part of the principal message he had for the high-profile press conference he called in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday.

The minister, who now heads the SADC Council of Ministers, was visibly enthusiastic about the prospect of ending non-tariff barriers (NTBs) in trading.

With SADC intra-regional trade currently standing at below 20 per cent of the respective member-states’ total trade, it is likely that the tariff barriers to be removed might not be as significant, as it is institutional and people to people links that have been lacking.

For instance, Tanzania and Zambia have for 40 years been joined by a highway and a standard gauge railway, but investment and trade has been generally has been skimpy, aside from drought moments and purchases of maize from this side of the border.

Lack of harmonisation in EAC and SADC at one point led to trade-based differences of opinion as Tanzania did not offer a ‘most favoured nation’ view of Kenyan goods in transit from Nairobi to the Zambian market, not on customs union list. Nasty patches of this nature must be forestalled.

While negotiations to end trade barriers in EAC have usually been slow and drawn out, the spirit that minister Kabudi has demonstrated in relation to harmonisation in the SADC context is altogether different.

Only lately have the personal relations and leadership styles that link President John Magufuli and his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta, showed that a different tonality is possible in EAC cooperation as well.

It is largely this positive spirit that the incoming SADC chairman took to his interim regional leadership position and is likely to put it to good use. It thus suggests that consensus in the EAC has laid the basis for enhanced trade ties among SADC member states.

Trade strategists will notice that the zeal that SADC member states are showing to remove trade barriers is directly proportional to the low level of trade between them, while the difficult tone of negotiations in the EAC context relates to intensity of economic relationships.

In other words, the generosity that Tanzania and other SADC states are showing to one another is not an illustration of differences of character.

It is the low level of likely contention at home when trade barriers are removed, with few local producers feeling any pinch for a number of years. Now we see a galore of opportunities but we must innovate to compete, to avoid repeating tussles on the EAC ground. There is a lot of light at the end of the tunnel.