Tanker crash highlights Kenya's lack of preparedness
Death toll in Kenya tanker disaster may exceed 100
The Irish Times
NAIROBI, Kenya -- MOLO Rescuers combed a tanker crash site in Kenya yesterday where around 100 people were killed when oil they were scrabbling for caught fire in one of the east African nation s worst accidents of recent times.
Raila Odinga, the prime minister, said the disaster, in which 178 people were burned and injured, showed the desperation of poor Kenyans and the nation's lack of preparedness for accidents.
Poverty is pushing our people into doing desperate things just to get through one more day, Mr Odinga said during a visit to victims of the blaze, which took place on Saturday evening on a road near Molo town in the central Rift Valley. This being a rural area, there was no response by any disaster team because there is no such team.
Regional authorities revised the death toll to 94 from 111 after difficulties counting the bodies in darkness on Saturday. We counted 89 bodies last night and five have died this morning, said Rift Valley provincial commissioner Hassan Noor Hassan. The Red Cross said up to 110 had died, a health minister said 97, and police gave a toll of 91.
When the oil tanker careered off the road, hundreds of locals began pouring to the scene with jerry cans to try to scoop up some free fuel. Suddenly, the oil caught light and the blaze engulfed the crowd. Many bodies were burned beyond recognition.
Rescuers said someone may have accidentally dropped a cigarette, although there was also suspicion that someone angered at being blocked by police may have started the fire on purpose.
Mr Hassan said medical facilities in the area were overwhelmed.
Some people have to sleep on the floor, despite their serious injuries. But we are going to airlift the most critical to Nairobi to decongest the hospitals.
Anxious relatives milled around hospitals and the scorched area of the crash site, hoping to find their kin. My two sons ran home, picked some jerry cans and ran to get some petrol. I tried to stop them but they did not listen. They told me everyone is going there for the free fuel, said one distraught woman. Now I cannot trace them, she said, sobbing as she looked at the skull and bones of a corpse near the shell of the truck.
Kenya has a poor road safety record, with major accidents and multiple deaths common on its main thoroughfares.