Aug 1, 2021

Mawazo Writing Africa

Writing about the main

Tragedy after tragedy, do Kenyans ever learn?

It’s sad that Kenyans never seem to learn from such disasters due to unbridled greed, biting poverty and outright ignorance.

Rift Valley regional coordinator George Natembeya regretted the incident and urged Kenyans to stop rushing to such scenes for their own safety.

“Siphoning fuel and looting accident victims of their valuables is wrong. It has become common in highways, despite deaths and warnings issued against such behavior. If you are not there to save lives, please stay away and let experienced first responders deal with the situation,” Mr Natembeya said.

“Looting is a crime. Those siphoning oil should face the law. Petrol is a highly flammable and dangerous liquid. It poses a great danger to the public if it explodes and it’s not worth dying for,” he added.

Mr James Ombati, a sociologist, said poverty and the ever rising cost of living pushes Kenyans to rush to accident scenes to loot.

Security lapses

“Despite the past tragic fuel tanker accidents, Kenyans are sometimes pushed by the high cost of living to siphon oil from tankers to make ends meet. Most people rush to accident scenes, not to save lives, but seeking to salvage valuables,” said Mr Ombati.

“The love of free things also pushes Kenyans to storm such scenes to loot. I’ve seen people looting as victims begged for help. It happens all the time. Kenyans must change their mindset about free things,” he added.

A human rights activist, Mr David Kuria, however, blamed such incidents on security lapses.

“If security officers move swiftly and cordon off accident scenes, looting can be avoided and lives saved. It’s, however, true that some Kenyans never learn, not even the hard way,” he said.

“Security officers should always ensure the public is kept away from such scenes to avoid tragedies in the future. After an accident, police should call for reinforcement to manage crowds. That’s the only way to handle it.”

Here are some of the worst fuel tanker fire tragedies that hit Kenya and East Africa:

January 31, 2009: An oil tanker exploded at Sachangwan area on the Nakuru-Eldoret highway, killing 130 people. The fire broke out as villagers siphoned petrol from the tanker that had been involved in an accident at Sachangwan area.

The tanker burst into flames about two hours after it had overturned, consuming all the people at the scene. The tragedy left dozens nursing serious burn wounds in hospitals. Names of those who died in the tragedy are engraved on a plaque near the scene of the accident.

Of the dead, 78 were laid to rest in a mass grave on the roadside near the scene while 69 were buried by their relatives.

September 12, 2011: At least 120 people were burned to death as they tried to siphon oil from the pipeline when it burst into flames in Nairobi’s Sinai slums. More than 100 were admitted to hospital.

The fuel had leaked into a storm drain from the Nairobi-Mombasa pipeline and the spill attracted the attention of many people seeking freebies.

August 17, 2014: Six people died, while nine others sustained serious burn injuries after a petrol tanker they were siphoning fuel from caught fire, at Kamara area, along the Nakuru-Eldoret highway.

The 9pm accident occurred when the driver of the tanker lost control, before it overturned and landed in a ditch. Residents are said to have started siphoning fuel, when one person allegedly lit a match stick, leading to the fatal explosion.

August 10, 2019: A fuel tanker laden with petrol and diesel headed from Dar es Salaam to Mafinga overturned at Morogoro town. The driver tried to avoid a boda boda rider, before hitting a tree and plunging into the street.

People rushed to the overturned tanker to scoop fuel that was spilling over. Horror and death were looming. The tanker exploded into a fireball, killing 64 people and injuring more than 70 others.

July 2019: At least 45 people were killed after a crashed fuel tanker exploded in Benue State in northern Nigeria. According to eyewitnesses, the driver of the tanker lost control after trying to dodge a pothole. Residents ignored police calls to stay away from the accident scene.

2002: A similar fuel tanker tragedy occurred in Mbeya, Tanzania, killing at least 40 people. About 100 were injured when the tanker overturned. The Mbeya region had witnessed a number of similar road mishaps, including collisions between oil tankers and other vehicles.

2002: Some 70 people were killed when an oil truck rammed into a bus in Rutoto, less than 50 kilometres from Kyambura in Uganda.

May 2006: An oil pipeline punctured by thieves exploded and killed 150 people at the Atlas Creek Island in Lagos State.