NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 13 – Emergency crews and the police returned to Sinai slum in Nairobi on Tuesday morning to continue with a search for more bodies believed to be strewn in the area following Monday’s pipeline fire tragedy that killed at least 120 and wounded many more.
On Monday, the police and Kenya Red Cross officials were forced to call off the search due to nightfall but mounted the efforts afresh on Tuesday morning.
“We collected a total of 76 bodies last evening but we believe there are many more still lying around mostly in the river that passes in the slum and those are the ones we want to continue retrieving this (Tuesday) morning,” Thomas Atuti, area divisional police chief said on telephone.
It was expected the remaining bodies would be retrieved on Tuesday.
But even as the rescue efforts were underway, a humanitarian crisis was building up in the area, with men, women and children having spent the night in the cold after their make shift houses were burnt down.
The Ministry of Special Programs was set to erect tents for the affected families in the Sinai slum where dozens reported missing persons, possibly burnt or hurt in Monday’s horrific inferno.
The Kenya Red Cross said it had also sent its volunteers to counsel affected residents as well as record and reconcile figures of people reported missing.
Other families were also expected to turn up at the city mortuary to search for bodies of their kin, although most bodies taken there were burnt beyond recognition and required DNA tests to ascertain their identity.
Police said up to 112 people were still admitted to the Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi with at least 40 in the Intensive Care Unit due to the severity of their burns.
Kenyan authorities visited the scene of Monday’s pipeline fire tragedy and decried the “national disaster” that left 120 people dead, with fears the toll would rise.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga who was accompanied by Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi to the slum in Lunga Lunga said: “It is a terrible, terrible situation. It is a sad scene and indeed very sad to lose our people in a disaster such as this.”
Nairobi Town Clerk Philip Kisia told journalists that city hall staff, including those involved in putting out the inferno had managed to count up to 120 bodies.
“We have lost 120 people in this tragedy but from the look of things, the number could rise further because as you can see there are even bodies in the river of the people who were possibly trying to escape the fire,” Mr Kisia said.
Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi said; “It is the worst disaster that has happened to the energy sector in our country,” but blamed the mishap on residents who have been squatting on the pipeline.
“It is quite unfortunate that some people have been squatting in an area reserved for the pipeline. We have been trying to remove them but unfortunately we have never succeeded,” the minister said.
Fuel leaks and oil tanker accidents in Africa often draw huge crowds scrambling to scoop fuel, resulting in many deaths due to accidental fires.
In 2009, 122 people were killed after a fire erupted while they were drawing fuel from an overturned tanker in Sachangwan on the Nakuru-Eldoret highway.