Page last updated at 09:41 GMT, Sunday, 1 February 2009

Scores killed in Kenya oil fire

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga tours the site of the tanker fire

At least 111 people have died in Kenya after an overturned petrol tanker caught fire on a highway and exploded.

Reports say the fire broke out after hundreds of people gathered to collect spilled fuel.

About 200 people have also been injured in the blaze, in the town of Molo. Officials say the death toll may rise.

The cause of the fire is not clear. Some reports said it was caused by a lit cigarette, but others said it had been started deliberately.

One woman at the scene said her two sons were among the several hundred people who had run to collect petrol after the tanker crashed and she had not been able to find them.

"I tried to stop them but they did not listen, they told me everyone is going there for the free fuel," she told Reuters.


A survivor of the fire said he had rushed to the scene to collect fuel when he had heard of the accident.

"I had taken the first jerrycan back to my home and when I came back for the second, I heard an explosion and it was like we all caught fire, I don't even know how I got here," Michael Kerich told AFP news agency at a hospital in Nakuru.

Interior Minister George Saitoti said 111 people had died so far and 34 with serious injuries had been airlifted to Nairobi.

He said four policemen were among those killed.

Rift Valley police provincial commissioner Hassan Noor Hassan warned the toll could rise, and said he had ordered 150 body bags to be delivered to Molo.

'Slow response'

It is not clear exactly how the fire broke out.

Kenya Red Cross spokesman Titus Mung'ou told Reuters news agency it could have been started by someone dropping a cigarette.

But Mr Hassan said the fire may have been lit by people whom the police were trying to keep away from the petrol.

"We don't exactly know how the fire started because the allegation is that somebody got annoyed with the way they were being chased away from the place by security personnel and lit the fire, others are saying the fire started accidentally," he said.

"But, however, in the process there was an explosion, there was fire everywhere and we have bodies littered all over this place."

The Nation newspaper has criticised what it said was a slow official response to the fire, which was still reported to be burning several hours later.

"The Nakuru Municipal Council's fire engine arrived at the scene more than an hour after the explosion," said the newspaper, adding that Molo itself has no fire engine.

The BBC's Peter Greste, in Nairobi, says Kenya's emergency services have a poor record for public safety standards.

The incident comes just days after a devastating fire at a supermarket in the Kenyan capital Nairobi killed at least 25 people.

Kenyan media also criticised the emergency response to that disaster, calling it slow and inadequate.

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