NAIROBI, KENYA -Fuel fire leaves stench of death
The grotesque bodies strewn all over the valley captured the tragedy that was visited upon Sinai slum, whose residents have known nothing but misery and poverty, on Monday morning.
|Shocked relatives at Kenyatta National |
Hospital on Monday. Photos: Martin Mukangu
and Moses Omusula/Standard
At one corner, a disfigured hot plate and an overturned paper bag with roasted rice gaped, as if defying what was happening around. But even as Mbuthia counted his losses, he kept murmuring how lucky he was for none of his family members had been hurt by the fire, unlike some of his neighbours like Jennifer Atieno.
Although Atieno’s three children were safe, she was not sure about her nine-year-old grandchild, Vivian Atieno, who was last seen as she left for Jamaica Academy within the slums.
"When I heard loud explosions at around 9am, I rushed to find out what was happening. I saw fire everywhere. I rushed towards the school but it was on fire. I do not know where Vivian is but I hope she is safe.
Atieno’s friend, Judith Aulo was still dazed in shock after she received information that her five-year-old son, John Juma had been knocked down by a vehicle as he fled from the burning school.
"This place was like hell. I tried running to the road but I was too slow. Finally, I reached my son
|Survivors’ agony at the scene. Photos: Martin Mukangu and Moses Omusula/Standard|
Francis Amache dreads going down to the valley where the bodies are because he fears he might find his brother’s remains.
"I last saw him taking a basin as he rushed towards the river where other villagers were scooping petrol from a drainage tunnel. I have not seen him since. He has no phone. I fear he could be dead."
Fire exploded By the time of going to press, the police had put the number of deaths at more than 100.
The residents who spoke to The Standard recalled how they saw many people rushing to the valley to scoop petrol shortly before fire exploded.
After realising they had caught fire, some victims tried to cool their bodies by jumping into the sewerage drain — but it had the leaking fuel.
The situation at the valley was made worse by the drizzle which flooded the area as storm water mixed with sewerage and drained into the valley where the dying and the dead lay.
As soon as the news of the tragedy and its magnitude spread, hundreds of people streamed into the already crowded slum hampering human and vehicular movement.
Amidst all this, the devastated villagers tried to sift whatever they could salvage from the charred debris.
News people, some who were reporting live from the site, didn’t find it easy either. At one point a female broadcaster climbed on top of an ambulance and broadcast as fire sirens blared past her.
And even as the rescue workers tried to estimate the death toll, there were fears that additional fires may erupt as some of the residents were still hiding petrol in their houses.
"Bwana Chief, there are some people who have petrol in their houses. I don’t know what to do because their houses may explode at night when the owners light fires," a resident told an agitated Chief Atandi.
While the administrators and Pipeline officials scratched their heads for solutions, politicians trooped into the area with their motorcades to assess the situation.