NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – A leaking gasoline pipeline in Kenya’s capital exploded on Monday, turning part of a slum into an inferno in which at least 61 people were killed and more than 100 hurt.
Flames leapt out from the pipeline in a radius of some 300 yards (meters), setting shacks ablaze and incinerating scores of people, leaving charred bodies and blacked bones in the charred homes. Some burned bodies floated in a nearby river filled with sewage. Homes had been built right up to the pipeline, the residents said.
“I’ve lost count of the number of bodies,” said Wilfred Mbithi, the policeman in charge of operations in Nairobi as he stood at the scene. “Many had dived into the river trying to put out their flames.”
Provincial Commissioner Njoroge Ndirangu said at least 61 bodies have been recovered so far, but said the death toll from the blast will rise.
Nearby, a young woman clawed through smoldering timbers, screaming in grief. Others wandered by the remains of the inferno, frantically dialing phone numbers that didn’t go through or staring around in disbelief.
Fires still smoldered among the twisted wreckage of corrugated iron sheets and scattered possessions. Visibility was poor because of rain and smoke.
Resident Joseph Mwangi, 34, said he was feeding his cow when people went running past him, calling out that there was a leak in the pipeline. He said others started drawing fuel and that he was going to go and get a bucket and get fuel too when he heard an explosion around 9 a.m. By then fuel had leaked into the river and parts of the river had also caught fire. People in flames were jumping into the fiery, stinking mess, he said.
Mwangi was still looking for his 6-year-old daughter.
At least 112 burn victims have arrived so far at Kenyatta National Hospital and they urgently need blood donors and blankets, said Richard Lisiyampe, the head of the hospital. Many children were among the victims. Most had burns covering more than a third of their bodies, he said. Some were unrecognizable, said St. John’s Ambulance Service spokesman Fred Majiwa.
In 2009, at least 120 people were killed when they were trying to scoop fuel spilled from a crashed petrol tanker in Kenya. The cause of Monday’s explosion was still unclear.
Associated Press writer Malkhadir M. Muhumed contributed to this report.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.