Shortly before seven o'clock on Thursday, January 23, 2020, a loud explosion scared the residents of Villa El Salvador (VES), district of southern Lima, capital of Peru. A tanker truck leaked liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) it carried. Seconds later, there was a great fire that left dead, dozens injured and about 20 homes affected. Most of the injured are in critical condition, they have burns in large areas of the body.
This video, which also conveys the perception of the apathy of the Peruvian authorities, captures the precise moment of the start of the fire:
Did you see what is happening in Villa El Salvador? A fire occurred as a result of an explosion of a gas tank truck, there are many injured children who are in need of blood donors, it is sad to know that no authority is talking about this pic.twitter.com/eZ9EjLMtaN
– lux⁷?? (@shitdoownjk) January 23, 2020
As explained by the engineer Galo Flores Quino, the explosion of the tank truck carrying liquefied gas occurred at the unevenness of the crossing of two avenues and that “evidently (that unevenness) has not been properly treated.”
The specialist cited three factors that intervened in the fatal outcome: a poor constructive process of the transverse pathway; lack of signaling in the area that warned the drivers of the unevenness, added to the excessive speed at which the cistern was going.
This is the slope that would have caused the gas leak from the tank truck and then the explosion. There is one deceased and more than 30 injured in Villa El Salvador.@Lima_ECpe pic.twitter.com/VqbTQ20C4e
– Oscar Paz Campuzano (@OscarPazC) January 23, 2020
At first it was thought that the driver died at the scene, but then it was learned that he was alive and that he would have tried to control the gas leak. Hours later it was handed over to the authorities.
Later that day, the journalist Juan Pablo León disseminated information from the driver:
Truck set on fire in Villa El Salvador was driven by a driver with 83 ballots.
Worst of all: he had 5 fines for transporting dangerous cargo in an unsafe way.
He has fines even for assaulting inspectors. But the company recruited it as if nothinghttps: //t.co/dp8FCWcXBM
– Juan Pablo León ?? (@mal_menor) January 23, 2020
Other netizens were sympathetic to the driver's situation, a 72-year-old man:
The truck driver is a senior citizen. I wouldn't even have to be working. The exposure of his image as alleged guilty is unfair. It is the authorities who must answer for the VES accident.
– Valeria Acevedo (@misssorquidea) January 24, 2020
An avoidable accident
As the day progressed, citizen outrage grew in the face of a tragedy that could have been avoided if the company had followed the rules, or more clearly said, if informality did not run.
And in Peru, informality can reach 60% according to some indicators, as mentioned in this report from the Central Reserve Bank of Peru, written by Norman Loayza, economist for the World Bank:
Considering the nominal value of these indicators, in Peru 60% of the production is done informally; 40% of the workforce is self-employed in informal microenterprises; and only 20% of the workforce is affiliated with some formal pension plan, even if those workers who work for large companies are included.
That is why it was not missing who made an analysis of this tragedy using the word “accident” in quotes, as has done the anthropologist Javier Torres Seoane, mentioning other avoidable accidents:
In the country of informality, calling “an accident” a fact that is caused by the breach of safety standards – be it the LPG tank truck fire, the death of two McDonald's workers or the thousands of deaths on our roads- It is an insult to intelligence and a way to help keep it happening.
Others complained about what they see as indifference by other private companies to the tragedy:
Where are the big companies? The fancy restaurants, chefs? Where are the big department stores? What do you expect to help victims of VES? Learn the humblest people is the one who is putting the shoulder, HELP is needed from all this is a NATIONAL tragedy!
– krl4 (@ Krloncha1) January 24, 2020
A wave of solidarity to save the victims
Authorities launched blood donation requests in various hospitals in Lima, and the response was immediate and massive. Brazil and the United States donated 48 thousand centimeters of human tissue to people who were burned. In Lima, long lines of people willing to donate blood formed voluntarily:
#EsSaludInforma: Atención Attention! You can approach donating blood to the Edgardo Rebagliati and Guillermo Almenara hospitals. Let us help those affected after the deflagration of a tank truck in Villa El Salvador.
Here the requirements. ⬇ pic.twitter.com/IuNlBaqC9n
– EsSalud (@EsSaludPeru) January 23, 2020
We thank the voluntary blood donors who have arrived to show solidarity with the victims of the tragedy of Villa El Salvador. We have received 39 volunteer donors so far! ? pic.twitter.com/PaYd0Me7nO
– Fiorella Molinelli (@FioreMolinelli) January 23, 2020
This tragedy occurred two days before the extraordinary congressional elections that took place on Sunday, January 26. These elections were called by President Martín Vizcarra after the dissolution of the Congress announced on September 30, 2019. The congressional elections were held amid the indifference of the electors.