Two people were killed and six others seriously burned in a fire at a cooking gas depot in Nyeri on Thursday.
It is believed that huge quantities of the gas were stored in tankers at the depot in Kiunyu village, Tetu, which supplies the commodity to the larger Mt Kenya region.
The victims are said to have been working at the plant when the fire broke out. It is not clear whether there were more people in the guarded compound.
Five of them, with over 95 per cent burns, were admitted to the intensive care unit of Nyeri Provincial General Hospital.
“We have referred one of them to the Kenyatta National Hospital and plans are being made to airlift three others to Nairobi,” said the medical superintendent, Dr Kimani Mwago.
However, one of the victims died while being treated.
Top members of the provincial security team, led by Central provincial commissioner Japhter Rugut, visited the scene and helped control hundreds of residents from getting near the fire.
Mr Rugut said the fire was started after a tanker that had delivered cooking gas hit an electricity pole.
The crew escaped, leaving behind the tanker that had caught fire.
Red Cross personnel, the fire brigade and police had a hard time trying to control the crowd from the inferno.
Mr Mathenge Maina, a resident, said he heard a mild explosion, then a louder one that shook the area.
“We were working at a construction site and we heard a loud explosion that shook the building we were building. We then ran towards the fire but there were people running in the opposite direction, screaming and warning that a gas depot had exploded,” he said.
Mr Maina said a huge ball of fire rose into the sky following the second explosion, prompting everyone to run for safety.
Given the go-ahead
Health workers who travelled for more than 10 kilometres from the provincial hospital said they were attracted to the site by heavy smoke billowing into the sky.
A village elder, Mr Paul Mathenge, said the depot started operating three years ago.
Elders met to protest against the move to construct the facility in a residential area, he added.
The villagers said the project was given the go-ahead after local administrators met with the owner.
The Nation learnt that the area was well-guarded, with only customers and a select few people, including staff, being allowed access.