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Huge gas explosion and fire kills at least 3, injures hundreds in Kenyan capital

<i>Luis Tato/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>Video posted on social media shows an explosion resulting in a huge fireball. CNN cannot independently verify the footage.
Luis Tato/AFP/Getty Images
Video posted on social media shows an explosion resulting in a huge fireball. CNN cannot independently verify the footage.

By Mitchell McCluskey, Amy Cassidy, Larry Madowo, Bethlehem Feleke and Eve Brennan, CNN

(CNN) — A gas explosion at an unlicensed cooking gas-filling plant in Kenya’s capital on Thursday night killed at least three people and injured 280 others, according to authorities in the East African country.

The blaze started when a truck carrying gas blew up in Nairobi’s Embakasi district at about 11:30 p.m. local time, “igniting a huge ball of fire that spread widely,” government spokesperson Isaac Maigua Mwaura said.

Video posted on social media shows an explosion resulting in a huge fireball. CNN cannot independently verify the footage.

Residential buildings, businesses and cars were damaged in the blast and subsequent inferno, Mwaura said in a social media post.

“As a result, three fellow Kenyans […] have regrettably lost their lives while being attended [to] at the Nairobi West Hospital,” Mwaura said.

“In addition, by now, 280 other fellow Kenyans were injured by the fire and have since been rushed to various hospitals,” he added.

“Psychosocial counselling is being offered to victims who have experienced trauma.”

One resident told CNN his home was wrecked in the inferno. “My house was totally damaged,” said Alex Ontita, 25, who lived with his aunt and uncle.

“I was scared and emotional because this was a place I lived and now it is burned. I don’t have any place to go,” added Ontita, who said he had been at the scene all night.

Other residents such as 29-year-old Phylic Kerubo were also counting their losses from the blast. Kerubo told CNN outside her destroyed convenience store she was sleeping when the explosion happened.

Her 27-year-old brother who was injured in the fire outbreak is now being treated at a medical facility in the capital, she said.

Another survivor Edwin Machio described how he fled desperately from the scene. “The fire caught up with me from almost one kilometer away as I was escaping,” Machio told Reuters.

“The flames from the explosion knocked me down and burnt me on my neck,” he added, showing the Reuters reporter his injuries.

Authorities in Nairobi said they will provide shelter, food and blankets to people affected by the explosion.

Kenya’s government will also work with the Red Cross to ensure that “there can be provision of some rent for at least two months,” to those whose homes were destroyed, spokesperson Mwaura said, adding that the government is also aiding nine single mothers along with 21 children who are currently seeking shelter at a local aviation school.

Nairobi’s governor Sakaja Johnson said the city county is sheltering families who had lost their homes in a nearby County Hall located in Utawala near the scene of the incident.

“This is part of our broader effort to support and care for those affected as we plan for a more permanent solution,” he said.

Johnson said that all casualties from the incident have been attended to.

Earlier, Johnson announced in a statement on Facebook “a complete waiver of all medical fees for all victims being treated at the Nairobi City County hospitals.”

The Kenya Red Cross said it had evacuated 271 people to hospitals around Nairobi and was “tirelessly battling the flames” alongside other agencies.

A command center has been set up at the scene to coordinate rescue operations and other intervention efforts, Mwaura said, adding the scene was now secured.

“Kenyans are hereby advised to keep off the cordoned area in order to allow the rescue mission to be carried out (with) minimal disruptions,” he said.

Kenya’s Energy and Petroleum Regulation Authority (EPRA) said Friday that the explosion occurred at an unlicensed cooking gas filling plant.

The EPRA said it had received applications for construction permits for a Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) storage and filling plant at the site in March, June and July in 2023, but all applications were rejected as they did not meet the criteria for a plant in that area.

The applications were rejected due to a “failure of the designs to meet the safety distances stipulated in the Kenya Standard,” it said in a statement adding that it had noted the high population density around the proposed site.

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