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Death toll rises to six in Kenyan gas blast

By AFP
Kenya Embakasi is a residential and industrial area with a population of about one million.  By LUIS TATO AFP
FEB 4, 2024 LISTEN
Embakasi is a residential and industrial area with a population of about one million. By LUIS TATO (AFP)

The death toll from a gas explosion in Nairobi last week has risen to six after three more victims died from their burns, the government's spokesperson said Sunday.

Of the 280 wounded in Thursday night's blast, 53 are still receiving care in two of the Kenyan capital's hospitals.

A truck laden with gas canisters exploded just before midnight Thursday in Embakasi, a densely populated Nairobi district, unleashing a trail of destruction and sending people running for their lives.

The blaze was caused by a truck laden with gas canisters that exploded.  By LUIS TATO AFP The blaze was caused by a truck laden with gas canisters that exploded. By LUIS TATO (AFP)

"We regret to report that three more individuals have succumbed to their injuries, raising the deaths toll from the Embakasi fire incident to six," spokesman Isaac Maigua Mwaura said in a statement.

So far, the only person arrested was a security guard at the site.

"The search is still ongoing for the owner of that business," a police source told AFP

But a lawyer for the suspect said he wasn't hiding and bore no responsibility.

"My client was not operating a gas-filling plant," the lawyer said during a press conference Saturday. "He was operating a garage and the vehicle that caused the accident was trespassing the premise."

'Incompetence and corruption'

Embakasi is a residential and industrial area with a population of about one million according to the 2019 census which lies 10 kilometres (six miles) from Kenya's main international airport.

The Petroleum Institute of East Africa said initially on Friday that the explosion occurred at an "illegal LPG refilling and storage site" whose owner and some customers had been convicted and sentenced in May 2023.

But Kenya's National Environment Authority (NEMA) on Saturday said Maxxis Nairobi Energy had obtained permission on February 2 last year to operate the site. Four NEMA employees have been suspended.

President William Ruto, without mentioning NEMA, said that "government officials issued licences for gas installations in residential areas when it was very clear that it was the wrong thing to do, but because of incompetence and corruption they issued licences."

Ruto said they should be sacked and "prosecuted for the crimes they have committed".

A joint statement by the interior and energy ministers said that according to preliminary findings, "the refilling of LPG cylinders was done using direct manifold connections to LPG tanker increasing the risk of leakage and explosion".

"Twice in March 2020 and January 2021, the plant that was illegally constructed at the said location was demolished... the operators charged in court," it added.

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