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Roundup: Kenya launches search, rescue operations after at least 33 killed in road tragedy

Xinhua, December 11, 2016 Adjust font size:

Kenya's rescuers have begun search and rescue operations after at least 33 people were killed on Saturday night when a tanker rammed into vehicles and burst into flames on the Nairobi-Naivasha highway.

Pius Masai, the deputy director of the National Disaster Management Unit, said on Sunday the rescuers have extended search to nearby bushes and its environs to rule out any victims who might have found their way off the road during the evacuation exercise.

"By today morning, the death toll has risen to 33 people; many are injured and over 11 vehicles burnt at a road traffic accident along Nairobi-Naivasha roads," he added.

Nakuru Deputy County Commissioner Daniel Masinde had earlier said the number is likely to rise as police comb scene of the accident.

The flames from the burning tanker quickly spread to the vehicles that were burnt beyond recognition. Masinde, however, assured members of the public that the fire has since been put out and the road cleared.

The accident had caused a massive traffic snarl-up on the highway that serves major towns in the Rift Valley region and neighboring countries.

The tanker which was carrying Premium Bond, a highly flammable substance, from the coastal city of Mombasa to Kampala in Uganda rammed into the vehicles before bursting into flames.

Several motorists heading to Nairobi were caught up in the Saturday evening incident with majority of them burnt beyond recognition.

Among those who were killed were five paramilitary police officers whose vehicle was hit by the speeding lorry before it burst into flames.

There was a moment of panic as security personnel moved in to contain the situation and recover all the guns that the security officers were carrying.

The busy highway was rendered impassable for several hours as fire fighters moved in to contain the fire.

Mangled wrecks on fire and with bodies trapped inside were spread along the highway as relatives and members of the public tried to come in terms with the incident.

One of the witnesses Joseph Njoroge blamed the recently erected speed bumps for the accident noting that there were no signs to warn motorists.

Njoroge said that the tanker which was going downhill hit the bumps before losing control and ramming into the incoming vehicles.

"There was heavy traffic on the road at the time and the lorry on hitting the other vehicles burst into flames trapping the victims and burning them," he said.

He added that the fire spread to the other vehicles which included a minibus and a police car, killing 33 and seriously injuring others.

Relatives of the victims wept frantically as one of the survivors, who wished to be anonymous, narrated how he lost his mother, wife and brother in the tragedy.

"We were on our way to Nairobi from Subukia when a lorry hit us head on before bursting into flames and I was thrown out and watched as they were burnt to death," he said.

A senior police officer said that the death toll could rise as some people were still trapped in the burning wrecks. Endit