Fire caused by gas explosion in Kenya’s capital kills at least 3 and injures nearly 300

A vehicle loaded with gas exploded and set off an inferno that burned homes and warehouses in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi early on Friday, killing at least three people and injuring more than 270.

Many residents were likely inside their homes when the fire reached their houses late in the night in the Mradi area of the Nairobi neighbourhood of Embakasi, government spokesman Isaac Mwaura said.

The death toll is expected to rise.

According to Mwaura, the truck explosion at around 11:30pm last night ignited a huge fireball, and a flying gas cylinder set off a fire that burned down the Oriental Godown, a warehouse that deals with garments and textiles. Several other vehicles and businesses were damaged.

By morning, several houses and shops had been burned out, while the roof of a four-storey residential building about 200 metres from the scene of the explosion was broken by a flying gas cylinder. Nothing remained in the burned-out warehouse except the bodies of several trucks, while the shell of the vehicle believed to have started the explosion was lying on its side.

A gas truck is seen burnt out after an explosion at an industrial building in Nairobi.

Alfred Juma, an aspiring politician, said he heard loud noise from a gas cylinder in a warehouse next to his house.

“I started waking up neighbours asking them to leave,” he said, describing how he warned a black car not to drive through the area, only for the driver to insist and see his vehicle stalling because of the fumes.

“He attempted to start the car three times and that’s when there was an explosion and the fire spread into the (warehouse) setting off other explosions.”

Juma said he grabbed two children and they hid in a sewage ditch until the explosions ended. His family had not been present, but he lost everything he owned in the fire.

“Police were turning away everyone and so it was difficult to access my house and I had to seek a place to sleep until this morning,” neighbour Caroline Karanja recalled. She said the smell and smoke were still choking, and she would have to stay away for a while because she had young children.

Police and the Kenya Red Cross reported three deaths. The toll may rise today, said  Embakasi police chief Wesley Kimeto.

The government and Red Cross said 271 people had been taken to several hospitals with injuries.

The proximity of the industrial company to residences raised questions about enforcement of city plans. Officials in the county government have previously been accused of taking bribes to overlook building codes and regulations.

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