Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere said the incident happened at the River Sio Bridge in Busia.
“37 people who were seriously burnt have been taken to the Busia District Hospital and Kakamega Provincial hospital,” he told journalists at his office in Nairobi.
Witnesses said area residents rushed to the scene with buckets to scoop the spilled fuel from the tanker.
“The fire was sparked when someone tried to yank out the battery from the lorry,” said the witness.
Iteere appealed to the public to desist from approaching overturned fuel tankers as they pose a great danger to them.
He stressed that they should keep off the area until specialists come to deal with the situation.
“Any time there is a tragedy of that kind, an accident involving a fuel tanker like this one which was transporting Super Petrol which is a highly inflammable commodity, they should be running from the scene of the accident and not towards it,” he said. “This incident comes barely two weeks after the incident which we had at Sinai.”
He pointed out that many of the deaths experienced in such incidents can be avoided if people heeded the warnings they are given.
“Four years ago, we had a similar incident at Sachangwan. I think it is high time the members of the public should exercise caution and anytime there is a tanker carrying fuel and has overturned, they should never attempt to siphon fuel from it because that is courting death,” he recalled.
Different leaders visited the scene of incident before later visiting the hospitalised victims at the Busia district hospital.
Led by the Amagoro MP Sospeter Ojaamong the leaders called upon the government to honour the pledge of providing a fire fighting engine to the town to help address issues of fire in case of emergency.
“The government should address the issue in a matter of urgency to protect the area residents from the waiting disaster of flammable tankers ferrying fuel through this Busia border,” said the Amagoro legislator.
Ojaamong said they will convene a meeting as leaders from Busia County to seek the way forward.
Western upper regional commissioner Rashid Mohammed issued an order to the Busia Municipal Council not to allow fuel tankers into the town.
“The tankers must be packed out of town to avoid exposing the locals to danger. This is an order that must be followed,” said Rashid.
The incident comes in the wake of a similar tragic incident in Nairobi’s Sinai slums, where more than 116 people lost their lives as they siphoned fuel from a leaked oil pipeline.
A resettlement action plan funded by the World Bank and the City Council of Nairobi is currently being prepared.