NAIROBI (Reuters) – At least 75 bodies have been recovered after petrol that had spilled into an open sewer caught fire and sent a wave of flame through a densely populated slum in the Kenyan capital, police said yesterday.
Kenyan media said more than 100 people were burned to death and a similar number were taken to hospital. Police said it was proving difficult to establish the exact number of dead among the charred remains.
Residents said petrol spilled from a fuel depot owned by the Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) and ran into a sewage dyke that runs under the slum, known as Sinai. The petrol ignited, causing an inferno.
“So far we have taken 75 bodies to the mortuary, but we are still searching for more,” Wilfred Mbithi, an assistant commissioner of police coordinating the search told Reuters. Police spokesman Charles Owino said the fire was started by a cigarette butt tossed onto the dyke, which opens into a small river. Authorities said they were battling the fire in an area estimated to be just over an acre.
Local television channels aired images of smoldering skeletons as the fire raged through the slum.
Children in school uniform ran in all directions, badly burned slum dwellers staggered in a daze and the smell of smoke and burning flesh filled the air.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga visited the scene of the fire.
“The government will do everything possible to ensure the injured will be treated and the families who have lost their loved ones will be compensated,” he said, speaking through the sun-roof of his 4×4 vehicle.
Odinga wiped tears after visiting the injured in hospital.
President Mwai Kibaki also visited patients with severe burns at the country’s largest public hospital. Doctors there appealed for blood donations.