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Two dead, 17 injured in tanker truck and gas station explosion near Rome

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-12-06 02:47

ROME -- Two people died after an fuel tanker truck exploded while unloading its cargo at a gas station on the outskirts of a small town north of Rome, local media reported Wednesday.

Another 17 people, six of them in critical condition, were taken to hospital by two helicopters and eight ambulances, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

According to initial reports, a fire broke out while the truck was unloading the fuel, followed by a massive explosion that swept the truck a dozen meters onto the opposite side of the road.

The fatalities included an off-duty firefighter who jumped to the rescue when the fire broke out, and a motorist who was trapped in his car by the flames, RAI News 24 public broadcaster reported.

"Unfortunately when the fire broke out and firefighters intervened, the gas station exploded, affecting everyone in the vicinity," Police Superintendent Antonio Mannoni told RAI News 24.

RAI showed footage of the charred carcass of the truck lying on its side, with massive columns of grey and black smoke and flames towering above the trees and buildings near the town of Farra Sabina.

Local residents described the explosion as similar to "an earthquake", ANSA reported.

On Twitter, the Civil Protection Department "expressed sorrow for the tragic outcome of the explosion...which caused the deaths of a firefighter in action and of a second victim".

Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio also tweeted his thoughts for "the 17 injured (and) the firefighters (and) rescuers that were on the scene".

The causes of the initial fire are still unknown, according to local media.

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