UN Secretary General António Guterres expressed deep sadness on Monday over the reported deaths of at least 34 people in the explosion of a fuel tanker truck in South Africa.

The explosion in Boksburg, a suburb of the capital Johannesburg, on Christmas Eve severely damaged the roof of the Tambo Memorial Hospital emergency department, killing and injuring dozens and also reportedly destroying homes and cars.

Initial reports estimated around 27 deaths, but the number rose to 34 last weekend, according to regional health authorities.

A memorial service for the dead was held last Friday.

News reports said the victims included nearly a dozen health care workers and nearly two dozen members of the public, and due to severe burn injuries, the death toll could rise further.

Children were reportedly among those who perished.

“The Secretary-General expresses his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the explosion and to the people and government of South Africa,” he said in a statement issued by the UN spokesman’s office.

“Guterres wishes a full and speedy recovery for the injured and the speedy reconstruction of the damaged health infrastructure.”

According to news reports, the gas tanker hit the underside of a low bridge before exploding.

Many of the victims were admitted to the hospital emergency unit, before having to be evacuated, before the roof collapsed.


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