alexa 10 years later, Sachangwan tragedy still haunts residents - Daily Nation

10 years later, Sachangwan tragedy still haunts residents

Thursday January 31 2019

Sachangwan mass grave

Residents view names of victims of the 2009 oil tanker fire tragedy who were buried in a mass grave at Sachangwan along the Nakuru Eldoret highway. There will be a memorial service at the grave site on January 31, 2019. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

PETER MBURU
By PETER MBURU
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Ms Cecilia Wambui is roasting maize next to her vegetable stall at the Sachangwan trading centre.

On her left sits a young man, who looks sick or confused to a newcomer. His name is Peter Kimani, and he is in his 20s.

For about 10 years, Mr Kimani has been suffering from trauma, which forced him to leave school. He is unable to work.

The condition began in 2009 after he learnt that his brother, Alex Mwaura, had died when a petrol tanker burst into flames in Sachangwan. More than 130 people died in the inferno.

“Since then, he has been unable to do anything. I stay with him all the time and do most things for him,” Ms Wambui said, recalling the incident that robbed her of her firstborn.

DEPRESSION

Mwaura, then 19, had accompanied a police officer to the scene to find out why many people were running towards the highway. Most of them died.

News of Kimani’s brother plunged him into depression, from which he still suffers.

A few kilometres from the centre, we meet Nicholas Kipkorir. He and his friend were playing football when they saw people rushing towards the highway, saying, a petrol tanker had been involved in an accident and they were going to fetch fuel.

“As I was looking for a container for the fuel in, I saw a huge ball of fire. I started running but I fell into a trench and suddenly, I was engulfed by fire. I felt as if I was in hell,” he recalls.

He spent several weeks in hospital. He is still traumatised when he sees a big fire.

LOST HUSBAND

Ms Anne Kebenei lost her husband in the tragedy. He was badly burnt and was buried alongside 77 others in a mass grave. She also lost a son.

Her husband was the family’s sole breadwinner, so it is a struggle putting food on the table for her children.

They now sell sugar cane on the highway with other youth and women, not too far away from the mass grave.

The Sachangwan tragedy, which occurred exactly 10 yeas ago today, changed many lives.

“The Sachangwan oil tanker fire tragedy directly affected some 347 victims. Some 130 victims whose names are engraved on this plaque were burnt beyond recognition, and 78 of them were laid to rest in this mass grave. Sixty-nine other victims died in hospital and were buried by their relatives. The rest of the victims were badly maimed by the fire and were hospitalised in various hospitals and later discharged,” reads the plaque at the grave site.

Nicholas Kipchirchir

Nicholas Kipchirchir shows the scars from the burns he sustained during the Sachangwan fire tragedy in 2009. PHOTO | RICHARD MAOSI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

SUCCUMBED TO INJURIES

Some survivors of the tragedy have since succumbed to injuries, although there are no official records to confirm that. Others are trying to make the best they can of their lives.

“There are some whose wounds are ever fresh. They need frequent medication. Several have died, while others are doing something positive with their lives,” Ms Rose Koech, who lost a son, told the Nation.

Political leaders have turned the tragedy into a campaign item, promising residents that if they get elected, they will fight to ensure that those affected by the tragedy are compensated, she says.

“We were left with orphans to take care of and there are widows who are suffering. What occurred is still with us, we carry it in our hearts,” Ms Koech adds.

There is consensus that those affected by the incident need psychiatric, medical and financial help.

But with little help forthcoming, residents try to cope the best way they can.

They will hold a memorial service at the grave site Thursday, as they have done for nine years.