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State blamed for Sinai tragedy

Thursday February 13 2014

Photo/FILE Residents mourn their loved ones killed in a fire that swept through Sinai slum in Nairobi’s Industrial Area on September 12, 2011. Failure to repair a gadget worth Sh1000 at a Kenya Pipeline plant in Nairobi cost the lives of hundreds of the slum dwellers in fire tragedy, a court has been told.

Photo/FILE Residents mourn their loved ones killed in a fire that swept through Sinai slum in Nairobi’s Industrial Area on September 12, 2011. Failure to repair a gadget worth Sh1000 at a Kenya Pipeline plant in Nairobi cost the lives of hundreds of the slum dwellers in fire tragedy, a court was told Thursday. 

VINCENT AGOYA
By VINCENT AGOYA
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Failure to repair a gadget worth Sh1,000 at a Kenya Pipeline plant in the city cost the lives of a hundred people in Nairobi’s Sinai slum, a court heard Thursday.

In an emotional hearing of a compensation case lodged for the victims, Senator Mike Mbuvi Sonko said a Presidential task force had established that fuel from the pipeline leaked and caught fire after engineers failed to repair a gasket that had burst at the plant.

THERE WERE NO ROADS

The Nairobi Senator filed the suit against the government on behalf of the victims and survivors for alleged negligence.

He testified at the High Court in the case that seeks Sh53 billion in damages for the 109 lives lost, hundreds of businesses destroyed and families displaced and those injured.

“On the fateful day, one of my constituents called me, and I rushed to the scene. I saw several bodies, human skeletons and burnt domestic animals,” he told the court.

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Fire was coming out of underground drainage pipes and burnt anyone, the senator said.

“Perhaps if there had been alternative piping and good accessibility, and if they had taken their responsibilities seriously, the Kenyans who lost their lives would be alive today.”

Mr Mbuvi said the victims did not bring the fire upon themselves, but were burnt due to negligence.

The task force that was established to investigate circumstances that led to the tragedy stated that the fire started at the plant after the faulty gasket burst, causing an overflow of inflammable oil along drainage under residential structures.

FAILED TO REPAIR THE FAULT

“Initially, we did not know who to blame, but after former President Kibaki formed a task force to establish the cause of the fire, we knew how it started,” he said.

He told the court that he obtained the task force report after it was tabled in Parliament.

“The report says that Kenya pipeline had failed to respond to replace a gasket of Sh1,000 and that state engineers had failed to repair the fault in time, and this is what caused the fire,” Mr Mbuvi said as he sought permission to produce the report as part of his evidence.

State lawyers objected to the request, arguing that they had not seen the report. Mr Justice David Majanja directed that the document be given to the state counsel for their perusal before the case resumes.

However, the senator charged that copies had been given to the first team of lawyers who represented the State in the matter.

The senator sought to show video evidence to support his oral testimony, but state lawyers objected, saying that they had not been given copies of the videos.

The case continues on March 10.