Tragedy Strikes Embakasi.. Aftermath of a Lethal Gas Tanker Explosion in Nairobi

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Gas Tanker

In the late hours of February 1st, a harrowing incident unfolded in the densely populated residential neighborhood of Embakasi, Nairobi, as a gas tanker laden with cylinders erupted in a massive explosion.

The tragic event occurred at an alleged “illegal” storage site, as the East African Petroleum Institute reported. The aftermath has left the community grappling with shock and resentment, as homes lay in ruins, businesses smolder, and the toll on lives and property becomes painfully evident.

The destructive force of the explosion is reflected in the extensive material damage sustained by the Embakasi neighborhood. Amidst the debris, residents sift through the wreckage in a desperate attempt to salvage belongings. Boniface Kobi, a 29-year-old survivor, recounts his ordeal with bandaged arms and legs, detailing the horror of being burned as he tried to escape. “I have nothing left; my house was completely burned,” he laments.

The calamity unfolded during the night when a gas-laden truck exploded, triggering a fierce blaze. Emergency services worked tirelessly throughout the night, finally containing the flames around 9 a.m. the following morning. The government spokesperson reported three fatalities and 280 injuries in the wake of the incident.

Benson Mutiso, a worker in a now-shattered grocery store, reveals the devastation that unfolded within minutes. “Everything is destroyed. In ten minutes, the fire was everywhere, covering everything from top to bottom. I am still in shock. So many people were injured. I have nowhere else to go, no other job. Yet, I must feed my family and pay my rent.”

Residents are now expressing anger over the storage of gas cylinders in their densely populated residential area. Kizito Obinda and Erick Charles, whose apartments were razed by the flames, highlight the risks of having such facilities near residential spaces. They condemn the negligence and call for government oversight. “It’s hazardous to have such a facility where people live”; “It’s negligence. The government must control all these investors, and find a more suitable location.”

The East African Petroleum Institute disclosed that the explosion occurred at an “illegal” site for filling and storing liquefied petroleum gas. The owner had previously faced legal consequences in May 2023. The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority revealed that it had rejected requests three times in the past year for installing such a plant at the explosion site due to the high population density.

Lola, a resident of the adjacent neighborhood, insists that authorities must do more to ensure safety. “There must be security checks. Do the factories have the necessary permits? Are there cases of illegality? Authorities cannot wake up only when people are injured. It saddens me, as a Kenyan, to see such an incident unfold in 2024.”

Vice-President Rigathi Gachagua took to the social media platform X, affirming that those responsible would be held accountable for their actions. As Nairobi grapples with the aftermath, the incident is a stark reminder of the urgent need for enhanced safety measures and stringent regulatory oversight in industrial areas close to residential zones.

Soukaina Sghir

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