From playing fields to hospital wards


Published on 05/02/2009

By Alex Kiprotich

An eerie silence and sense of hopelessness tell it all at the Provincial General Hospital in Nakuru.

Since the Molo oil tanker tragedy, mood at the hospital remains gloomy, with families still struggling to come to terms with a disaster that killed more than 130 people and injured several others.

Yesterday, children recuperating at the hospital recounted harrowing experiences of

Alex Kipkoech, who sustained burns in the legs.

a tragedy that families in Sachang’wan, Molo.

Most of the children were in deep pain and could hardly recall the events preceding the tragedy that dominated local and international headlines.

Milled around

True to the saying that curiosity killed the cat, children milled around the fallen fuel tanker amused as they witnessed people scrambling to scoop and siphon petroleum.

Nicholas Kipchirchir, 12, was playing football with friends near the scene.

Kipchirchir, a Standard Six pupil at Kapsirok Primary School, said they saw people rushing towards the scene where the tanker had overturned.

“Everybody was running to scene and we stopped our game to see what was happening,” he said. He added that after ten minutes watching the ensuing drama, he heard a deafening explosion, which darkened the entire place.

He said people just ran aimlessly and no one knew where they were heading.

In the confusion, Kipchirchir said, he slipped and fell into some flowing liquid and immediately a ball of fire caught his foot.

“I stepped on what I thought was water and immediately I was on fire,” he said.

Caught fire

Another schoolmate, with whom they were playing at the rugged fields, Harrison Kosgei, 16, said he caught fire when he came in contact with a jerrican someone had abandoned.

“Usually, we come to the field on Saturdays and pass time playing ball,” he said.

Nelson Langat treated at Nakuru Provincial General Hospital.

[PHOTOS: LUCAS THUO/STANDARD]

Alex Kipkoech, 13, was on his way home after seeing his mathematics teacher at a local school.

Kipkoech said he was passing by when he saw people scrambling for oil and decided to watch the drama.

“I was from my teacher’s house to pick my assignment, which I had taken to him earlier in the day for marking,” he said.

Said he: “When I saw people shoving and pushing, I decided to watch the drama as people splashed each other with the fuel while some argued over empty jerricans.”

When the tanker exploded, he added, mayhem reigned as people ran helter-skelter screaming for help.

Kipkoech said he ran but someone whose clothes had caught fire trampled on him. He also caught fire.

“Someone whose clothes were on fire fell on me and I caught fire in the encounter,” he said.

The Standard Eight pupil at Keringet Day and Boarding School said he quickly stood up and removed his trouser, which was already on fire and ran into a potato farm.

Kipkoech said he did not know the fate of the person that fell on him because he left him struggling to put out the fire, which had consumed nearly all his clothes.

Ten-year-old John Gikaru was from the shopping centre when he heard the explosion.

Sat on oil

Gikaru, who is admitted to Ward nine at the provincial hospital, suffered burns when he fell and sat on spilt oil.

“I do not remember what happened after I fell,” said Gikaru, who spoke feebly as he was in deep pain.

Nelson Lang’at, 17, who was with his friends said he rushed to the venue when he heard an explosion but on the way, he saw a woman literally on fire.

Lang’at said the woman fell as she clutched a five-litre jerrican full of petrol, which spilt on him.

“Immediately, a fire caught my shirt and I quickly removed it,” he said.

He sustained burns to the chest.

The nurse-in-charge of Ward 14 where the children are recuperating, Cecily Nyagah, said they were responding well to treatment.

Ms Nyagah said the children sustained serious burns but were improving apart from one, whose condition remained serious.

“It is unfortunate the children were drawn to the horrific scene by curiosity. However, we, as a hospital, are doing what we can within our means to save their lives,” she said.

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