Kenya: Explosion tragedy unveils regulatory oversight challenges

Firefighters put out the fire caused by a vehicle loaded with gas which exploded, in Nairobi, Kenya, Friday, Feb. 2, 2024.
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Kenya

A massive fireball over a Nairobi apartment block captured by 19-year-old Philip Awinyo Jeremiah turned a regular night into chaos, leading to a viral video on social media.

The explosion, caused by the rupture of liquid petroleum gas cylinders in an illegal depot, left behind a war zone-like area, claiming the lives of at least three people and injuring 280, with 24 in critical condition.

Awinyo, a university student, unintentionally became a citizen journalist, sparking conversations about the incident’s aftermath. The illegal depot’s owner, previously found guilty of operating without authorization, had evaded regulations despite two demolitions and continued business operations, raising suspicions of corruption.

Residents, including Awinyo, had long complained about the smell of gas, highlighting safety concerns in Nyayo Estate. The Petroleum Institute of East Africa revealed a lenient sentence for the depot owner, contradicting the High Court’s precedent, and noted the involvement of improperly released gas tankers in the explosion.

The tragedy underscores challenges in enforcing regulations, with accusations of bribery against county government officials. The incident prompts a critical examination of authorities’ ability to ensure safety standards and proper oversight in the face of illegal and hazardous activities.

Additional sources • Nadia Colombe Gbané

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