Petrol tankers explode in Kenya, killing 13 individuals

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A “huge fireball” engulfed a crowd in Kenya after a overturned fuel truck from which they leaked fuel ignited without warning, killing 13 people and seriously injuring several others.

Police said on Sunday that the number of deaths could increase, with investigators trying to account for the missing and charred bones that are among the twisted wrecks in the tanker.

The truck collided with another vehicle and turned late on Saturday near Malanga, about 315 kilometers northwest of Nairobi, on the busy highway between Kisumu and the border with Uganda.

Spectators rushed to the crash site with jerrycans to collect the leaking fuel, but shortly after the truck exploded and consumed the audience in a terrible inferno.

“We were awakened by a very loud explosion. When I rushed out, I saw a huge fireball and people were screaming,” said nearby resident Jack Odhiambo.

Those at the scene first managed to get away safely with some fuel, says witness Magdalene Adhiambo.

But others went back for a second round, and the audience grew larger as more and more people arrived hoping to be lucky.

“That was when the fire started,” she said.

Wycliffe Otieno said he had just started filling his jerrycan when the glare around him lit up.

“I could run to safety … I just do not know how happy I was, because I have been told that the people we were with did not survive,” Otieno said from his hospital bed.

Burned with their motorcycles

Charles Chacha, a local police chief in Siaya County where the accident occurred, said 24 people were in hospital with serious burns. Earlier, he said that children were among the injured.

Investigators are still combing the charred wreck and fear the death toll could climb.

“The number of deaths we have now is still 13. These are similar at the morgue,” Chacha said.

“However, we have people who are not ready. We will require a proper investigation to determine if there were people who were completely burned at the scene, where bones were found.”

Firefighters arrived at the scene two hours later to extinguish the inferno. The cause of the explosion is not yet known.

Four motorcycles were found smuggling not far from the tanker. Witnesses said motorcyclists had rushed to the scene with jerrycans and were near the tanker when it exploded.

“Some were burned with their motorcycles,” Otieno said.

Pictures broadcast by Kenyan media showed that the flaming tanker lit up the night sky and the next morning, the crowds gaping at the disfigured, ornate wreck.

Fatal accidents involving fuel trucks that negotiate dangerous roads are not uncommon in Kenya and the East Africa region.

In 2009, more than 100 people were killed when a gas tank overturned northwest of Nairobi and an explosion consumed those gathered to collect leaking fuel.

Recently, at least 100 people were killed when a tanker exploded in Tanzania in 2019, while in 2015 more than 200 people died in a similar accident in South Sudan.

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