NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 13 – The Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) has said it is not to blame for the fierce inferno that claimed the lives of over 100 people in Sinai slum on Monday.
KPC Managing Director Selest Kilinda insisted that his personnel were immediately deployed to fix a gasket that ruptured following increased pressure in the Nairobi-Mombasa pipeline and contain the subsequent super petrol spillage. He argued that KPC could therefore not be held responsible for the aftermath.
“We do not take responsibility for the fire and the accident that happened after the spillage. We did our best to stop the fire from ravaging the property and the lives of the people and therefore we do not take responsibility,” he maintained.
Kilinda argued that the situation could have been catastrophic had his personnel not reacted as fast as they did.
“We had over 21 million litres in the station and if our staff did not move with speed, the disaster would have been a catastrophe,” he emphasised adding that measures were immediately put in place to ensure that the fire did not spread.
Many theories have been advanced about what could have ignited the deadly explosion but the management emphasises that petrol is highly flammable and therefore the blaze could have been triggered by any light fire including that of a cigarette.
The MD however disclosed that investigations to determine the exact cause of the accident had been launched and a comprehensive report would be out in the next two weeks.
“We are very saddened with what happened but internally, we have commenced very intensive investigations to try and find out the root cause of that spillage to ensure that it does not happen again,” Kilinda revealed while appealing for patience.
The government is also said to have sought the services of an independent team to carry out another audit, with the report expected to be made public as soon as it is ready.
On the issue of whether KPC would compensate the victims, the director reported that insurance assessors were already on the ground to determine who should be compensated.
“I would not like to say whether we are going to compensate and what compensation (we will give),” the guarded MD said.
Many will be waiting to see what the insurance adjustors’ verdict is, given that KPC has in the past tried to evict people who have encroached on the pipeline wayleave with little success.
However, the fire started in a manhole that drains into the nearby river and not on the pipeline wayleave.
The management said it had been carrying out intense civic education on the dangers of living so close to or on top the pipeline but it has faced spirited resistance from the residents who in most cases were joined by their area Members of Parliament to oppose any plans to relocate them.
In 2008, KPC says it paid off 1,470 people to the tune of Sh29 million to move out of the right-of-way. However, their efforts were just a ‘drop in the ocean’ since all the urban areas from Mombasa to Nairobi where the pipeline passes have been encroached.
But even as Kenyans try to make sense of the situation, motorists in Nairobi had to contend with a fuel shortage after oil marketers, at the request of KPC, closed down nearby depots to give time to the technical team to clear the area of any fumes and avert another crisis.
However, the marketers met with the KPC management on Tuesday evening and the two parties expressed confidence that the situation would normalise immediately.