80-Plus Dead in Kenya Oil Explosion

Leaking pipe detonates in Nairobi slum

Sep 12, 2011
Outside Magazine

At least 80 people are dead and more than 100 wounded after a gas pipeline exploded in Nairobi's Mukuru Sinai slum on Monday. Several hundred people had collected around a break in the pipeline to draw leaking fuel when it exploded around 9 A.M. Flames from the blast scorched everything within a radius 900 feet, destroying homes and leaving dozens dead. Journalists and first responders reported finding charred remains floating in a nearby, sewage-filled river. "I've lost count of the number of bodies," Wilfred Mbithi, the policeman in charge of the response, said. "Many had dived into the river trying to put out their flames." Some 112 people, including many children, have already been admitted to Kenyatta National Hospital with third degree burns. The fire was likely triggered by either an ember from a garbage fire or a stray cigarette butt. Pipeline leaks in the slum are not uncommon, and a report published two years ago in Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper detailed the risk of a fire in Mukuru Sinai. Government regulations dictate that a 15-meter buffer zone must be left between dwellings and pipelines; in Sinai, that regulation was widely ignored.

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