Bloomberg News

Kenya Oil-Pipeline Spill Causes Blast; 53 People Are Killed

September 12, 2011

(Updates with Kenya Pipeline comment in sixth paragraph.)

Sept. 12 (Bloomberg) -- At least 53 people died when an oil pipeline operated by Kenya Pipeline Co. spilled fuel into a slum in eastern Nairobi, causing an explosion, police and ambulance officials said.

More than 100 people may have died in the blast that occurred at Mukuru, about 11 kilometers (7 miles) east of the city center, Fred Majiwa, a spokesman for St. John’s Ambulance, said in a phone interview today.

“I was at Kenyatta Hospital myself and am able to confirm seven are dead,” Majiwa said. “At the scene of the explosion, we were represented by one of our workers and it was confirmed to me it could be more than 100. Some of them are burned beyond recognition.”

Kenya’s worst petroleum accident occurred in January 2009, when 94 people died after a gasoline tanker burst into flames at Molo in the Rift Valley province, about 167 kilometers northwest of Nairobi. Kenyan police are working to ascertain the death toll in the latest incident, spokesman Eric Kiraithe said.

“I have spoken to an officer on the ground and he has told me they have confirmed 53 dead,” Kiraithe said by phone from Nairobi. “There is not much more he can say because they are struggling with the situation.”

Explosion

The explosion occurred this morning after petroleum products spilled from a pipeline that runs through Mukuru into a storm drain, Kenya Pipeline said in a statement read over the phone by Kasuja Onyonyi, a spokesman for the company. The pipeline, which links Nairobi to the port of Mombasa, was shut down after the spillage was detected, he said.

Some residents who went to the storm drain to scoop up the fuel burned to death. A pile of charred bodies was still lying in the storm drain, a two-meter (6.5-foot) wide trench, this afternoon. Tin shacks on the periphery of the drain were burned to the ground.

As Prime Minister Raila Odinga visited the scene of the incident, rescue workers attended to burn victims, while some residents screamed their demands for the government to compensate them.

Kenya Pipeline said it has yet to establish the death toll, the number of people injured and the value of property destroyed in the incident.

--With assistance from Sarah McGregor in Nairobi. Editors: Paul Richardson, Karl Maier.

To contact the reporters on this story: Johnstone Ole Turana in Nairobi at jturana@bloomberg.net; Eric Ombok in Nairobi at eombok@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net


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