Monday, February 02, 2009

The fuel fire tragedy in Kenya

In an effort just to get by, if you see an overturned fuel tanker spilling gas on the ground, you are going to start scooping it up. That is exactly what happened in Kenya over the weekend. But instead of Kenyans being able to lift some fuel, many came away burned or dead.

Once police became aware of the situation they began to only let people collect fuel who were willing to give them bribes. One person was upset by this, and thew a lit cigarette into the spilled fuel, igniting a fireball that killed 142 people.

To top it all of Kenya doesn't have any sort of disaster preparedness. So our clippings cover that side of the story. From this Reuters article found at WNED, the prime minister of Kenya gave his reaction.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga said the image of poor Kenyans dying as they scrabbled in the road for fuel under darkness on Saturday was an indictment of the state of the nation.

"Poverty is pushing our people into doing desperate things just to get through one more day," he said, visiting victims of the Molo blaze. "There was no response by any disaster team because there is no such team."

In hospitals, the injured shared beds or lay on floors.

"I saw a wave of fire and before I knew it, my face and leg were burning," said Simon Mwangi, 22, in Molo district hospital.

"I tried to remove my trousers but they were stuck to my skin. That is all I remember until I woke up in this hospital."

Most officials said a cigarette caused the Molo blaze.

Some witnesses said a man angered at being stopped by police from scooping petrol threw a cigarette butt on the ground deliberately. Police were demanding bribes, some said, though authorities have denied that.

This Associated Press article from the Seattle Post Intelligencer summaries the tragedy.

he explosion of an overturned tanker could be felt for miles, and the moments that followed haunted survivors: People ablaze, their clothes burned off, running to the bush in a futile effort to escape the pain and begging for help.

More than 100 people were killed and an additional 200 injured in the inferno overwhelmed hospitals Sunday, where victims lined the floors, hooked to drips and moaning in pain. Authorities expected the death toll to rise and were searching the scorched woods for corpses.

Hundreds of impoverished people had flocked to the overturned tanker Saturday to siphon fuel when it exploded, 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 jerrycans, plastic bottles and buckets -- anything to siphon some free fuel.

The blast as one of this East African nation's deadliest accidents and highlighted the desperation of people living in the poorest continent in the world.

No comments: