An overturned gasoline tanker exploded as hundreds of people were trying to scoop up free fuel, killing at least 111 people and wounding 200, officials said yesterday.
Nearby hospitals were packed with victims, including small children, suffering from horrific burns. Trembling patients were loaded into ambulances for transfer to burns units.
“Everybody was screaming and most of them were running with fire on their bodies, they were just running into the bush,” said Charles Kamau, 22, who was driving through the town of Molo on Saturday night when he saw the road blocked by hundreds of people surrounding the overturned truck.
As he waited to get through, the gasoline ignited.
“I just ran to where there was no fire,” he said at a Red Cross tent where he was reporting a missing friend yesterday.
Burnt-out cars and charred clothing littered the road where the shell of the tanker stood in Molo, 170km outside the capital, Nairobi.
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said at a news conference that it appeared that someone’s cigarette caused the explosion.
The Kenya Red Cross said the death toll was 111 but was expected to rise.
“Most of the families will have a hard time because these bodies are charred beyond recognition,” said Patrick Nyongesa, the regional manager for the Kenya Red Cross.
Similar blasts are common in Nigeria, where people tap gas pipelines to pilfer fuel for cooking or resale on the black market.
In 2006, a gasoline blast killed 200 people in Nigeria.
The Kenyan government has been criticized for poor safety regulations recently.
On Wednesday, a massive fire swept through a supermarket in downtown Nairobi, killing at least 25 people.
After the supermarket blaze, the Daily Nation said Nairobi’s 3 million people are served by just one fire station situated close to a traffic-choked business district.