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Nairobi Pipeline Explosion Kills at Least 61

Red Cross workers collect bodies after a pipeline explosion on Monday, Sept. 12, 2011.
Red Cross workers collect bodies after a pipeline explosion on Monday, Sept. 12, 2011.

At least 61 people in Kenya’s capital were killed Monday after a gasoline pipeline exploded.

Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi told VOA the explosion was one of the worst accidents ever in Kenya’s energy sector.

He explained that trouble began when pressure caused a gasoline pipeline to break a valve. Fuel then spilled into an open sewer in the informal settlement of Mukuru wa Njenga.

“When people smelled oil there, they went to fetch [the leaked gasoline] and it caught fire because some were cooking, others were smoking, so there were various explosions in the place, and that is the cause of so many deaths,” said Mukuru.

He said the government plans to bring in experts to examine why the valve broke, and to make sure that the same accident does not happen again.

Dozens of people were killed when the fire erupted around 10 a.m. Kenyan time. Kenyatta National Hospital CEO Richard Lesiyampe told reporters that 112 people injured in the blasts had been admitted. Most of them are suffering severe burns, but all have been stabilized.

Lesiyampe called on people to donate blood, and said more blankets are required for the victims.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga said that he was moved by the sight of the burned bodies in Mukuru.

“Our appeal would be to the nation to remain calm, remain calm, so that we can be able to go through this in a much more civil manner,” said Odinga.

He said the government would donate the necessary blankets.

Accidents like this are common in the East African country.

People tend to scoop up gasoline when it spills from tankers or pipelines to be used in vehicles and cooking stoves.