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A man inspects a gas depot at the scene of an explosion in Nairobi, Kenya Alamy Stock Photo

At least three people dead and 280 others injured in huge fire in Kenyan capital

The fire broke out just before midnight in the Embakasi neighbourhood southeast of the capital.


THREE PEOPLE HAVE been killed and 280 others have been injured after a truck laden with gas canisters exploded in a densely populated area of the Kenyan capital.

The blast ignited a huge ball of fire in a residential area in the southeast of Nairobi, ravaging many properties and vehicles.

Firefighters brought the blaze under control by around 9am (6am Irish time), more than nine hours after it erupted in the Mradi area of Embakasi close to midnight, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.

Investigations are under way to determine the cause of the blast, which media reports said could be heard several kilometres away.

A guard at the site where the explosion occurred had been arrested and investigations are ongoing, Douglas Kanja, Deputy Inspector of Police, said.

Kenyan government spokesman Isaac Maigua Mwaura confirmed three Kenyans died and 280 others were rushed to hospital for treatment.

The explosion ignited a “huge ball of fire that spread widely”, he said in a statement.

“Consequently, the inferno further damaged several vehicles and commercial properties, including many small and medium sized businesses,” he said.

“Sadly, residential houses in the neighbourhood also caught fire, with a good number of residents still inside as it was late at night,” he added.

Images broadcast by local media showed a huge fireball close to several homes in Embakasi, an area that is home to about one million people, according to a 2019 census.

According to an AFP journalist, several houses and vehicles were burned, with images of the scene showing the wreckage of charred vehicles.

‘Like an earthquake’

“We were in the house and heard a huge explosion,” James Ngoge, who lives across the street from where the fire broke out, told AFP.

“The whole building was shaken by a huge tremor, it felt like it was going to collapse. At first, we didn’t even know what was happening, it was like an earthquake.

“I have a business on the road that was completely destroyed.”

Stella Mbithi, a roadside vegetable vendor, was serving customers when she saw the sky turn orange with flames.

“We all took off. It was chaotic because people were screaming all over and vehicles were honking horns. I fell down several times,” she told AFP. 

“I am lucky to be alive.”

The explosion forced many of the area’s residents to spend the night outside, with large columns of black smoke seen billowing from the area.

Some people could be seen collecting their belongings and surveying the damage to their homes.

“The scene has now been secured and a command centre is now in place to help coordinate rescue operations and other intervention efforts,” Mwaura said.

Kenya’s Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) said today it had denied permission three times last year for the construction of a liquefied petroleum gas storage and filling plant at the site of the explosion.

“The main reason for the rejection was failure of the designs to meet the safety distances stipulated,” it said, noting “the high population density around the proposed site”.

© AFP 2024 

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