MOLO, Kenya, Feb 9 – Seventy-eight Kenyans who were burnt beyond recognition in a fuel tanker explosion nine days ago were buried in a mass grave on Monday.,
The victims were among more than 100 people engulfed in flames on January 31 as they were scooping fuel spilt from the overturned truck.
They were buried less than 100 metres from the site where the truck overturned. Some families complained the burial was rushed before proper identification was conducted.
Scores of grieving relatives of the deceased were put under medical observation after collapsing during the sombre ceremony graced by top government officials including President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
Speaking during a special funeral service at Nguzu Primary School, President Kibaki commended Kenyans for giving one another a helping hand without any ethnic, social or economic consideration when the tragedy occurred.
He said the Ministry of Special Programmes and other relevant agencies should conduct training for local leaders, NGOs, Civil Servants including provincial administrators on disaster management who should in turn conduct civic education to sensitise wananchi on how to ensure their own safety and how to conduct themselves when disasters occur.
“Let us all take steps to ensure that every citizen has a basic understanding of safety issues as well as disaster preparedness, prevention, rescue and recovery as the Sachang’wan tragedy may not be the last one to occur,” President Kibaki said.
“As Kenyans, we should therefore always live together harmoniously to enable us overcome any challenges that may come our way,” he added.
The President observed that the double fire tragedies of Nakumatt Downtown and Molo have amplified the need for a comprehensive strategy of dealing with disasters in the country.
“As a nation, we are pained to the core by this tragedy that has left so many families mourning just so soon after another fire razed down Nakumatt Downtown killing 27 people and injuring several,” President Kibaki said.
President Kibaki said such a strategy will ensure that Government agencies and even wananchi themselves are better prepared to deal with disasters.
In this regard, President Kibaki directed the Ministry of State for Special Programmes to improve and hasten implementation of the National Disaster Management Strategy.
The President said the Ministry of Special Programmes should also formulate and forward to the Ministry of Education a manual on safety, disaster preparedness and response that can be incorporated in the school curriculum.
Recalling that 10 years ago the country suffered a similar loss at Sidindi in Siaya district where 32 people lost their lives, President Kibaki stressed the need for Kenyans to resolve that similar tragedies will not befall the country in future.
President Kibaki later visited Nakuru General Hospital to console some of the survivors of the Sachangwan fuel tanker tragedy where he wished them quick recovery.
Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, in his speech, appealed to fellow leaders to shun unnecessary squabbles that may scare international investors saying the world was in competition for available resources.
Mr Musyoka said in the last one year, the country has experienced calamities including post election violence, the birth of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), famine, fires and even rising unemployment among youth which require a collective sober approach to address.
On his part Prime Minister Raila Odinga said the transport Ministry was working on a policy paper and legislations on safety parking regulations to avert recurrence of related accidents citing the Sidindi tanker disaster.
“We must now learn a lesson from these tragedies and restructure our parking habits because these tankers and trailers have for long been parking dangerously in Mlolongo, Burnt Forest and Salgaa town and we have realized such habits are a disaster in waiting,” the Premier said.
He said the document would outline safety measures that can answer lingering queries over the circumstances under which authorities at the Nakumatt blocked the emergency exit route thereby entrapping the 29 victims as others are still reported missing.
Mr Odinga at the same time expressed appreciation to the international community for their support during the difficult times and recommended the inception of disaster precautionary and preparedness lesson in schools to ensure that the future generations was equipped.
“We as a nation take this opportunity appreciate the gesture shown India, France, United States of America and Italy for sending help including medical expatriates with specialisation in burns since the local medics were overwhelmed by casualties.