Around 100 dead in Kenya tanker explosion (Lead)February 2nd, 2009 - 1:17 am ICT by IANS
Nairobi, Feb 1 (DPA) Around 100 people have died in Kenya after an overturned tanker truck from which they were siphoning petrol exploded.Rift Valley provincial commissioner Noor Hassan Noor said the accident happened Saturday evening near the town of Molo, northwest of the capital Nairobi.
There were conflicting reports on how many people died in the inferno. Noor said that 91 were confirmed dead, while the Kenyan Red Cross put the figure at 113.
The final toll is expected to rise as more than 150 people were hospitalised with injuries, overwhelming local hospitals.
Dozens of injured lay on blankets on the floor of a nearby hospital, many of them moaning in pain and nursing horrific burns.
Patients with particularly bad injuries were rushed by helicopter to hospitals in Nairobi.
The accident came after hundreds of people rushed to the tanker to collect fuel in jerrycans after they heard it had crashed.
Police officers and members of the paramilitary General Service Unit who were attempting to secure the scene were believed to be among the victims.
Witnesses told of seeing their children gathered around the tanker before it exploded.
Bodies were found scattered around the charred hulk of the tanker and in the nearby forest.
There were conflicting reports about how the fire started.
Some officials said that it was started by a dropped cigarette while others say it came after police tried to stop people collecting fuel.
One witness claimed the fire was started deliberately by a local man after an argument with police officers, who were allegedly demanding a fee to allow people to collect fuel.
“I heard someone saying that they were going to avenge the fee by starting a fire and left the scene fearing for my life,” the witness told the Daily Nation. “Moments later, I heard the explosion.”
Relatives of victims Sunday flocked to the scene and to nearby hospitals to find out if their loved ones had survived.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga and other top ministers visited the scene of the disaster and promised to pay the medical bills of the injured.
Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka sent his condolences to the relatives and called on them to remain calm until the bodies could be identified.
Newspapers criticised the response to the explosion, saying firefighters took too long to arrive on the scene.
The tragedy came just days after a supermarket fire in the capital Nairobi claimed the lives of at least 25 people, a figure that was also expected to rise.
The authorities were also blasted for their response to that fire.
It was not the first time people looking for free fuel have been killed in Africa.
Similar incidents have occurred in Ghana, Cameroon and Nigeria in recent years, causing hundreds of deaths, as impoverished residents disregard the danger and scramble for the valuable commodity.
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Tags: conflicting reports, daily nation, dpa, hassan, hulk, jerrycans, minis, molo, nairobi, nearby forest, nearby hospital, nearby hospitals, noor, one witness, police officers, provincial commissioner, red cross, rift valley, saturday evening, tanker truck