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Three dead, 280 injured in huge Kenya blaze

A resident who suffered burns waits to receive treatment at the Mama Lucy Kibaki Hospital in Nairobi. - Reuters
A resident who suffered burns waits to receive treatment at the Mama Lucy Kibaki Hospital in Nairobi. - Reuters
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NAIROBI: A truck laden with gas canisters exploded in a densely populated area of the Kenyan capital, setting off a huge blaze that killed three people and injured 280, the government said Friday.


The blast ignited a huge ball of fire in a residential area in the southeast of Nairobi, ravaging many properties and vehicles and sending local residents running for their lives.


Firefighters managed to bring the blaze under control by around 9 am, more than nine hours after it erupted in the Mradi area of Embakasi close to midnight on Thursday, according to a 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.


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


Beautician Vivian Njeri, 34, said she had just arrived home when the disaster struck, but managed to escape with injuries to her back and hands.


"We were running and screaming because there was fire all over outside," she said from a tent outside a Nairobi hospital where victims were being treated.


Forensic experts from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations arrive at the scene of an explosion at a makeshift gas cylinder refilling depot in Mradi estate, Embakasi district, in Nairobi. - Reuters
Forensic experts from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations arrive at the scene of an explosion at a makeshift gas cylinder refilling depot in Mradi estate, Embakasi district, in Nairobi. - Reuters


Residents said they had long feared such a disaster, with gas trucks arriving every day in the Mradi area. Kenyan government spokesman Isaac Maigua Mwaura said 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.


Felix Kirwa, a motorcycle taxi driver, said he had just returned home when he heard two blasts that caused his house to shake and shattered a window.


The father of three grabbed his youngest child -- a four-year-old boy -- and ran out of the house, losing track of his other children in the confusion.


"I didn't know where the two other children ran to until this morning when I located them, and they are safe," he said, nursing a bandaged broken leg. According to the journalist, several houses and vehicles were burned, with images of the scene showing the wreckage of charred vehicles.


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