NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 28 – The government has declared Shauri Moyo estate in Nairobi safe after it was sealed off earlier on Wednesday afternoon following a poisonous gas leakage near the landmark Kamukunji grounds.
The leakage emanated from a scrap metal yard after a worker there cut open a drum that contained the poisonous gas.
Police officers then evacuated the area as 48 people were rushed to the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) to receive treatment after inhaling the gas.
Doctors at KNH said they had admitted nine patients who were placed under oxygen treatment.
Kamukunji District Commissioner Matilda Sakwa told residents that the scrap metal yard would remain sealed off until it is ascertained there is no danger.
“We responded very fast and our officers took control of the situation. They have assessed the situation and they have advised me that we can all go back to our homes and business. But if anyone feel unwell after today, it is advisable that they visit a hospital,” he said.
John Were, who runs a welding business opposite the scrap metal yard told Capital News that the incident occurred in the morning.
“After he struck the drum, what we saw was gas that jetted into the air; it was yellow in colour and even the veracity with which it was jetting out was very powerful as it even lifted the drum itself,” he said.
“We decided to shut down after we started to feel some pain as we breathed,” he added.
Dan Migosi, a trained pharmacist was among the first people to arrive at the scene and initiated response activity to neutralise the liquid gases which he described as concentrated nitric acid or hydrochloric fumes.
Migosi, who is also the presiding Bishop at the New Life Pentecostal Church, told Capital News that he was called by a friend to assist in containing the situation.
Police officers evacuated the area as victims were rushed to the Kenyatta National Hospital to receive treatment after inhaling the gas.
Police, Red Cross and fire fighting personnel were kitted with gas masks as they battled to stop the leakage.
The National Environment Management Authority said the situation had been contained as at 3.30pm but advised residents to ensure their windows remained open.
Shauri Moyo Adventist School and Obuya Nursery School which are situated near the scene of the chlorine leak was evacuated and the pupils taken to the Pumwani Social Hall.
“The gas (chlorine) causes irritation of the nose and lungs making it difficult to breathe,” said Dr Handerson Irimu, a respiratory specialist at KNH.
Dr Irimu said that although most patients seemed to have stabilised, there were still chances of them developing complications because sometimes the effects of chemical inhalation delay manifestation depending on how much gas a patient had inhaled.
“Some patients may go through what is called acute syndromes and the effect then could be prolonged but we hope none of these patients will go through that stage,” he said.
Another risk associated with inhalation of the gas, he said, was brain damage if one took long before they accessed oxygen.
The hospitals Chief Executive Officer Richard Lesiyampe said most of the patients presented with choke, coughing, vomiting and others fainted.