More than 100 dead after Kenyan oil spill blaze

Scores of people are dead or missing in Kenya’s Rift Valley after an overturned petrol tanker caught fire and exploded.

As rescuers scoured a burnt forest near the crash scene last night the death toll had passed 113, with many more people from the nearby town of Molo missing. Many victims were incinerated in what witnesses called a fireball after a large crowd had approached the spill to collect free fuel.

Scorched cars and charred clothing littered the road where the blaze had scattered the crowd. A mother who was searching for her two sons at the scene of the explosion said several hundred people had run to the tanker to collect petrol.

“I tried to stop them but they did not listen,” she said, weeping as she looked through unidentified remains on the roadside. “They told me everyone is going there for the free fuel.”

The tanker had swerved off the road on Saturday night and turned on its side, spilling fuel across the road. Charles Kamau, 22, was approaching Molo when he saw the road was blocked by hundreds of people carrying jerry cans, plastic buckets and bottles, anything to carry fuel. Then he saw flames shooting up. “Everybody was screaming and most of them were running with fire on their bodies; they were just running into the bush.”

Mr Kamau, who works at a nearby orphanage, abandoned his car along with his companion, a 10-year-old boy. “I just ran to where there was no fire,” he told reporters. Nearby hospitals were overwhelmed by serious burns victims from what is one of Kenya’s worst national disasters. Authorities were having serious problems identifying many of the charred corpses because some had been burnt beyond recognition. Some survivors complained that they had had to sleep on the floor in crowded wards. The Red Cross was setting up temporary camps to treat the injured, and 30 victims were airlifted to the capital, Nairobi.

The latest disaster has provoked fresh anger in the east African nation at the allegedly slow response of emergency services, coming only three days after a supermarket blaze in Nairobi killed at least 30 people.

Deadly fuel fires of this kind are relatively common in Nigeria, where pipes are often tapped by desperate scavengers, but are almost unheard of in Kenya. For many Kenyans, the promise of free fuel in the middle of a looming famine was too much to resist. The country is beset by long-term drought and food shortages compounded by political infighting and a series of government corruption scandals. Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga visited the scene of the Molo fire yesterday morning and said the disaster was a “terrible blow to the nation”. He told reporters at hospital in Nakuru, near Molo: “Poverty is pushing our people into doing desperate things just to get through one more day.”

One year on from the post-election violence that swept Kenya, the country is ruled by a fragile coalition, and politicians on both sides of the power- sharing government have been quick to blame the others for a poor response to the disasters.

At least three policeman were reported to be among the dead after they had tried to control the crowd surging towards the tanker. A reporter from the Kenyan Nation newspaper claimed that the fire burnt unchecked for two hours before emergency services reached the scene. The Kenyan fire brigade said that it took one hour for them to reach the blaze; Molo has no fire engine.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS1 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Supply Teacher re...

KS2 Teaching Supply Wakefield

£140 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Primary Teachers Needed for Supply in Wakefield

£140 - £160 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1&2 Supply Te...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam