29 INJURED

Siaya village in grief after 13 killed in fuel tanker fire

Vehicle burst into flames as residents scrambled to scoop and siphon fuel following a road crash in Gem

In Summary

Another 29 people were injured and were admitted to various hospitals with varying degrees of burns.

Nineteen of those injured were rushed to Siaya County Referral Hospital. Five were taken to Yala Subcounty Hospital and another five to Inuka, a private facility in Ugunja town.

The wreckage of the fuel tanker that burst into flames after an accident in Malanga, Gem along the Kisumu-Busia road on Saturday, July 17, 2021
The wreckage of the fuel tanker that burst into flames after an accident in Malanga, Gem along the Kisumu-Busia road on Saturday, July 17, 2021
Image: DICKENS WESONGA

 

Malanga village in Gem, Siaya county, has been thrown into mourning following a Saturday night fuel tanker fire that left 13 people dead.

Another 29 people were injured and were admitted to various hospitals with varying degrees of burns.

Nineteen of those injured were rushed to Siaya County Referral Hospital. Five were taken to Yala Subcounty Hospital and another five to Inuka, a private facility in Ugunja town.

The tanker had been involved in a collision with a trailer along the Kisumu-Busia road prompting villagers to rush to the scene to siphon fuel.

Gem subcounty police commander Charles Chacha said the accident occurred at around 10:45 pm in Malanga area.

Chacha said the trailer which was ferrying milk swerved off the road while the tanker fell on its side following the crash.

Villagers who rushed to the scene started siphoning fuel. And as they scrambled for the precious commodity, the tanker exploded.

"The members of the public took advantage of the accident and went to siphon the petrol as one compartment of the tanker was open. Another resident realised the other compartment was closed and thus delaying them from siphoning the fuel so he opened it causing a spark and the tanker blew up," Chacha said.

The resultant fireball burnt the residents with the 13 dying on the spot. The victims included boda boda riders who had come with their motorcycles.

On Sunday, parts of burnt motorcycles were strewn all over the scene. The burnt wreckage of the tanker was also still at the scene.

Rescuers, including residents, officers from Yala police station and a team of medical personnel mobilised from as far as from Siaya town, said they collected charred remains of 13 victims.

Their bodies were burnt beyond recognition. The remains were put in gunny bags and taken to Yala Subcounty Hospital mortuary.

Rescuers said eight bodies were retrieved before the fireball was contained and the others after the fire was put out.

A medic who rushed to the scene told the Star that those rushed to the hospital suffered various degrees of burns.

"We got calls at different intervals from the subcounty hospital in Yala. I received the emergency call at midnight and immediately rushed to the scene," he said.

Those injured included 16 males and three females. They were all admitted to the surgical ward at the county referral hospital.

They were evacuated from the scene by two ambulances from the county government.

"Each ambulance carried three people in every trip. The emergency teams were already assembled at the hospital to receive and attend to the victims who were badly burnt," the medic said.

Gem subcounty police commander Charles Chacha said children were among those injured.

The police boss said the trailer was trying to avoid a head-on collision and swerved off the road. The tanker however hit its rear, causing it to roll.

"The trailer which was ferrying 20 tonnes of milk was being driven by one Kennedy Ombisa. It veered off the road to avoid plunging into the tanker that was heading to Busia," Chacha said.

The OCPD said fuel spilled from the tanker following the crash.

"Members of the public quickly gathered at the scene of the accident and began siphoning fuel. Moments later, the fuel tanker burst into flames," Chacha said.

"We have counted at least thirteen bodies at the scene. All the casualties were rushed to nearby hospitals for treatment."

He said police had launched investigations into the accident. The fire was put out by firefighters from Busia county.

It is not the first time Kenyans are losing lives from such accidents. 

Twelve years ago, 111 people were killed and hundreds injured in Molo on the busy Nakuru-Eldoret highway on January 31, 2009. Many died as they tried to scoop and siphon the fuel that they so desperately needed. It was a stampede.

It was Kenya's worst tanker fire, a testament to the poverty that drives people to risk their lives to steal a potentially deadly substance.

"These are lives that could have been saved had the victims heeded previous calls by authorities to avoid rushing to such scenes," Chacha said of the Malanga incident.

 

Edited by P.O