18 dead, dozens injured in Kenyan train crash and explosion

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Eighteen people were killed and dozens injured when nine runaway train wagons, some carrying liquefied gas, crashed at a station south of Nairobi causing an explosion which destroyed nearby houses, witnesses and officials said Sunday.

Eighteen people were killed and dozens injured when nine runaway train wagons, some carrying liquefied gas, crashed at a station south of Nairobi causing an explosion which destroyed nearby houses, witnesses and officials said Sunday.

All but two of the victims were residents of railway houses close to Athi station, 25 kilometers (15 miles) south of the capital, where the accident took place around midnight (2100 hours GMT) Sunday, the witnesses said. The other two killed were from nearby slums, officials said.

"I saw 18 dead, they looked like ashes. Only two could be seen as bodies, the rest were ashes," said Richard Njiru. "There were only two people burnt outside; the rest were inside the houses, nobody was hurt in the train."

There are some 30 houses around the station many of which had been reduced to charred rubble, Njiru said.

Houses and carriages were still burning hours after the crash as thousands of onlookers gathered around the scene.

"Even the tallest trees are burning," Njiru said.

It was not immediately clear what caused the crash.

Police and railway officials at the scene said the wagons were detached at a station a few kilometers (miles) from Athi River as the train headed toward Nairobi from Mombassa.

The detached wagons then reversed out of control back toward Athi River before derailing and exploding on impact, said Kariuki Kimani, the police officer in charge of Athi River.

"It's very sad...They call it runaways, maybe something went wrong. We need it to investigate," said Esther Otieno, deputy operations director at the station.

Detaching wagons was "normal" procedure, Otieno said.

Thirteen of the injured, mostly with third-degree burns, were admitted to Nairobi Hospital and another 23 were in Kenyatta Hospital, said Andrew Stenton, chief executive of Nairobi Hospital.

Three of the 13 at Nairobi Hospital were in a serious condition, Stenton said.

Kenya has a notorious history of train accidents.

On Wednesday, seven passengers died and 38 were injured went off the tracks in western Kenya.

Last year, 32 people were killed when passenger train using the same line as Sunday's train, went of the tracks.

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