(Nairobi) At least three people were killed and 271 others injured in a large fire caused by a gas explosion overnight from Thursday to Friday in Nairobi, the deputy inspector general of the Kenyan police said on Friday.
After several hours, the fire, which broke out around midnight and mobilized numerous firefighters, was brought under control around 9 a.m., noted AFP journalists.
A truck “loaded with gas exploded, causing a huge fireball which spread widely” in Embakasi, a district of the Kenyan capital, government spokesperson Isaac Maigua Mwaura said on X.
The fire “damaged several vehicles and commercial properties, including many small and medium-sized businesses. Unfortunately, residential houses in the area also caught fire, and a good number of residents were still inside because it was late at night,” said Isaac Maigua Mwaura.
“We have about 271 people admitted to various hospitals in Nairobi and (…) we have three deaths,” Deputy Inspector General of Police Douglas Kanja, who visited the scene, told reporters.
Earlier, the government said 222 people were injured and two others killed.
The fire, which generated huge columns of black smoke, broke out around midnight local time in Embakasi. Images broadcast by local media show a huge fireball near several homes.
According to an AFP journalist on site, many homes and vehicles burned.
“We were in the house and we heard a huge explosion,” said James Ngoge, who lives across the street from where the fire broke out.
“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,” he added.
“We first heard something like a loud explosion which was quickly followed by an even louder one. It was this second that shook our house and the window fell and broke,” says Felix Kirwa, resident of the neighborhood and boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) driver.
“That’s when we ran in different directions. I grabbed my youngest son and ran with him. I didn’t know where the other two children had run to until this morning when I located them and they are safe. I only broke my leg and was bandaged, but I’m fine,” he concludes.
Stella Mbithi, a vegetable seller, was serving the last customers when the fire broke out and claims to have seen “a huge ball of fire in the sky”: “It was chaotic because people were shouting everywhere ( …) I fell several times and have bruises. But there are people who were very seriously injured,” she continues.
Many residents of the area spent the night outside, noted an AFP journalist.
The police installed a security cordon around the fire, while some people were already working to collect their belongings and assess the damage.
“The scene has now been secured and a command center is now in place to help coordinate rescue operations and other response efforts,” the government spokesperson said.
In June 2018, at least 15 people were killed and more than 70 others injured in a fire at Nairobi’s largest open-air market.