Burn victims lined the floors of overwhelmed hospitals yesterday, hooked up to drips and moaning in pain after an overturned gasoline tanker exploded as hundreds of people tried to scoop up free fuel. More than 100 people were killed and 200 injured in the inferno, which was likely sparked by a cigarette.
“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 Molo on Saturday night when he saw the road blocked by hundreds of people with gerry cans, plastic bottles and buckets — anything to siphon some free fuel.
As he waited for the crowd to disperse, the gasoline ignited with a blast that was felt miles away. Prime Minister Raila Odinga said someone’s cigarette might have caused the explosion, but police said the cause remained under investigation.
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 accidents highlight the desperation of people living in the world’s poorest continent.
“Poverty is pushing our people into doing desperate things just to get through one more day,” Odinga said at a hospital near Molo.
Kamau, who works at an orphanage near Molo, was unhurt, but a 10-year-old child who was in the car with him suffered burns.
“I just grabbed the boy and ran,” said Kamau, who also was in the car with his colleague, Paul, when the tanker exploded.
“I am here to report him missing,” Kamau said at a Red Cross tent in Molo, about 170 kilometres northwest of the capital, Nairobi, where hundreds were gathering for any news of missing loved ones.
Burnt-out cars and charred clothing littered the road where the shell of the tanker stood, smouldering.
Authorities were combing through the scorched forest by the road for any corpses.
The Kenya Red Cross said the death toll was 113, but was expected to rise.