Embakasi Explosion: Tragedy Reveals Kenyans Are on Their Own

12 mins read

As we all know by now, the government through its Spokesperson Isaac Mwaura has asked Kenyan citizens to donate money to help the Embakasi fire victims pay two months’ rent.

What do Kenyans have a government for?

The explosion in Embakasi was massive and deadly.

Here is the Aljazeera report on that.

Nairobi gas explosion: At least 3 dead, hundreds injured in Kenya’s capital

” A truck loaded with gas exploded and set off a massive fireball that burned homes and warehouses in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, killing at least three people and injuring 280 people.

The fire broke out on Thursday night in the Embakasi neighborhood, government spokesperson Isaac Mwaura said on X, with many residents inside by the time the blaze reached their homes.

“One lorry [truck] of an unknown registration number that was loaded with gas exploded, igniting a huge ball of fire that spread widely,” he posted on Friday morning, adding that vehicles, businesses, and residential homes were engulfed by the flames. “A good number of residents [were] still inside as it was late at night,” he said.

The wounded people were rushed to various hospitals in the capital, according to Mwaura.

The fire was eventually contained by Friday morning, but firefighters, rescue teams, and police were looking for people trapped in the area.

At the scene after daybreak, several houses and shops were burned out. The shell of the vehicle believed to have started the explosion was lying on its side.

The roof of a four-story residential building about 200 meters (yards) from the scene of the explosion was broken by a flying gas cylinder. Electric wires lay on the ground. Nothing except the shells of several trucks remained in a burned-out warehouse called Oriental Godown which deals with garments and textiles.

Alfred Juma, an aspiring politician, said he heard loud noise from a gas cylinder in a warehouse next to his house. “I started waking up neighbors asking them to leave,” Juma said.

He said he warned a black car not to drive through the area, but the driver insisted and his vehicle stalled because of the fumes. “He attempted to start the car three times and that’s when there was an explosion and the fire spread into the (warehouse) setting off other explosions.”

Juma said he grabbed two children and they hid in a sewage ditch until the explosions ended. His family had not been present, but he lost everything he owned in the fire.

Earlier, the Kenyan Red Cross said it had taken 271 people to health facilities around the capital and 27 were treated on site.

‘So irresponsible’

Caroline Karanja said fellow residents in the neighbourhood had to run away after the explosion and as police cordoned off the entire area.

“Police were turning away everyone and so it was difficult to access my house and I had to seek a place to sleep until this morning,” Karanja told The Associated Press news agency. She said the smell and smoke were still choking and that she would have to stay away for a while because she had young children.”

But residents alleged that the gas businesses in the neighbourhood had operated with impunity and little regard for citizens’ safety.

“Why do we have gas plants in the middle of estates? This is a residential area and that is a gas plant right there. And it is not one, there are several,” Magdalene Kerubo, 34, told AFP. “Our government is so irresponsible,” she said, fuming.

Isaac Mwaura’s statement asking Kenyans to donate two months’ rent to the hundreds or even thousands of victims is idiotic at many levels. First of all, people lost hundreds of their residential homes so Kenyans donate this so-called rent money can the government figure out which house they will have to pay rent.

The government’s first job is to provide humanitarian support for the victims, including medical care and alternative housing for the victims and their families. The victims also need food and basic things to stay alive. Red Cross is doing its part but the Ruto government as usual is asleep on the job and asking for donations.

The government spends billions on endless foreign trips and other frivolous things like billions to make State House more attractive. Can some of that money be sent to deal with this Embakasi tragedy? And there were fires all over Nairobi in the last few weeks destroying many peoples’ lives, homes, and businesses. Can the spokesperson explain how the government is using Kenyan tax payer money to help the victims and their families?

Here are some of the victims at Mama Lucy Kibaki Hospital which took in 216 victims for emergency treatments. The question is where do they go from the hospital since their homes and residences went up in smoke after the gas explosion?

Here we have hundreds of desperate families who need immediate help to get housing just so they can recover from the terrible trauma of explosions in their homes. What is their president doing for them? Begging Kenyans to donate a few bucks each to help these victims pay rent for two months. Really!

Meanwhile, there was another fire at the Juakali businesses in Landhies in Nairobi which ruined the businesses and buildings of low-income earners and hustlers.

According to media reports, the area is famed for mass production of home items such as wheelbarrows, kitchen appliances like jikos, farm implements like spades, hoes and storage boxes.

The fire which started at around 6pm extended to a nearby residential area but no casualties have been reported as yet.

Police have cordoned off an outbound lane of Landhies Road and motorists on Jogoo Road seeking to access the Central Business District have been advised to use alternative routes.

The Juakali area borders Gikomba Market which has experienced its own fair share of fire incidents over the years, costing traders millions in losses.

One of the most frightening things about these massive fires is that the whole country has no such thing called fire fighting machines, equipment or firefighters. The country still lives in the 18th century as far as prevention and control of fire outbreaks mainly in urban centres are concerned.

The Juakali market destroyed in Landhies is right next to Gikomba market which has had raging fires tearing it down every few months and every time the politicians promise they are building this big fire fighting facility in the area. Where are those firefighting facilities? Nowhere.

Here is what Gikomba turns to every year sometimes a couple of times a year and nobody cares. The politicians will talk about the Embakasi devastating explosions and fire for a few days and then go back to politicking 24/7 every year even after elections.

Every Kenyan trader down there in the Gikomba area knows that the rich people who run the country and Nairobi want the Gikomba area burnt down to ashes so they can take the entire area which is a city by itself and is in a prime area of the Nairobi City and build there own businesses and big houses in there and for that, there will never be any serious fire fighting facilities and staff in that place.

The way we deal with firefighting in the whole country is just plain nonsense.

I tell my sister all the time because I really love her business empire in Kisumu and Bondo markets that any time there is fire in the markets where she has so much assets, she will lose everything and star from zero.

Fire fighting is just not a priority in Kenya where urban development and expansion is the biggetst economic activity going on for a few decades now. It was a sad and tragic situation when JKIA caught heavy fire a few years back.

After the fire trucks run out of water and could not work Kenyans and the whole world were shocked to see Kenyan firefighters carrying pales of water running towards the fire. It was a pitiful and sad moment for the country to realize that we can’t even protect our most important asset in the country, our international airport.

Now we have Embakasi fires and it will be in the news for a few days and that is all our politicians ever do for the country. They will talk about it and run away as soon as they can.

There will be no solution to that nightmare for the people facing life-threatening conditions. Our politicians never provide a solution for anything affecting ordinary Kenyans. That will not change until we change our politicians for the sake of the country and its people.

Adongo Ogony is a Human Rights Activist and a Writer who lives in Toronto, Canada

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