30 dead as Kenya tanker ex­plodes

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

More than 30 peo­ple died when a tanker car­ry­ing flammable ma­te­ri­als crashed into other ve­hi­cles and burst into flames out­side the town of Naivasha in Kenya late on Saturday, of­fi­cials said. “At 5:00 am the death toll was 33 but the search is still on,” Pius Ma­sai of Kenya’s Na­tional Dis­as­ter Unit said yes­ter­day.

He added that res­cuers were con­tin­u­ing to comb the area for bod­ies. Ma­sai said the ac­ci­dent in­volved “over 11 ve­hi­cles burnt” when the tanker rammed into oth­ers on the road and caught fire. Kenya’s Red Cross said the driver lost con­trol of the tanker which then crashed into other ve­hi­cles and “burst into flames”. A pas­sen­ger minibus and a po­lice truck were among the ve­hi­cles gut­ted by the fe­ro­cious flames.

The dead in­clude 11 of­fi­cers of the Gen­eral Ser­vice Unit, a para­mil­i­tary po­lice force. In a state­ment is­sued by Kenya’s State House, Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta said “the tanker re­spon­si­ble for the deaths should not have been on that par­tic­u­lar road at that hour” and called for a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a “tragic breach” of the rules re­strict­ing the move­ment of large trucks on cer­tain roads and at cer­tain times.

The ac­ci­dent oc­curred at Karai at the bot­tom of a long slope on the busy Nairobi-Nakuru high­way, the main cross­coun­try road lead­ing from Kenya’s cap­i­tal to the west of the coun­try and on to Uganda. Po­lice and wit­nesses said the truck with Ugan­dan reg­is­tra­tion plates was trav­el­ling fast when it hit a speed bump and then lost con­trol.

At least 50 peo­ple in­jured in the ac­ci­dent have been ad­mit­ted to a pri­vate hospi­tal in Naivasha. Wit­nesses de­scribed a fire­ball en­gulf­ing the ve­hi­cles with pas­sen­gers in­side. Af­ter fire­fight­ers put out the flames, res­cue work­ers col­lected bod­ies from among the wreckage of charred cars strewn across the high­way.

‘Like a horror movie’

“It’s a ter­ri­ble in­ci­dent, peo­ple are burnt, some in their cars and oth­ers as they tried to es­cape,” said a po­lice of­fi­cer on the scene. Ge­orge Rono was driv­ing on the high­way when he saw the tanker crash into other ve­hi­cles. “We sur­vived by luck be­cause we saw it hap­pen,” Rono said. “We heard ve­hi­cles hoot­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ously, then a loud burst that was fol­lowed by fire, that’s when I swerved my car and jumped out, when fire started spread­ing, but luck­ily it didn’t get to where we were.”

Rono’s pas­sen­ger, who did not want to be named, de­scribed the in­ten­sity of the blaze. “The fire was so huge you couldn’t move closer un­til the fire bri­gade came and helped put it out. All the ve­hi­cles around here were burn­ing,” he said. Some sur­vivors were treated on the scene by civil­ians and the Red Cross while oth­ers were taken to hospi­tal. Corpses were put in body bags and loaded into pick-up trucks.

“It is like a horror movie,” said Jane Muthoni, a shop­keeper who works close to the scene of the ac­ci­dent and rushed there to try to help peo­ple es­cape their cars. “It will haunt me for a long time, imag­in­ing that huge fire where peo­ple were burn­ing, and now I have seen some seated in their ve­hi­cles dead,” she said.

The busy high­way is no­to­ri­ous for deadly ac­ci­dents. In 2009 more than 100 peo­ple were killed and 200 in­jured on the same road af­ter a petrol tanker over­turned and lo­cal peo­ple gath­ered to col­lect the leak­ing fuel when a fire ig­nited. Given the scale of Saturday’s dis­as­ter it is ex­pected that the death toll may rise. The ac­ci­dent comes as Kenya is in the throes of a na­tion­wide doc­tors’ strike.


NAIROBI: Kenyan Vice Pres­i­dent Wil­liam Ruto (2nd-R) vis­its the crash site of a truck that rammed into sev­eral ve­hi­cles be­fore burst­ing into flames near Karai on the busy Naivasha high­way.

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