Fire From Explosion of Gas-Laden Vehicle Kills at Least 3 in Nairobi

A vehicle loaded with gas exploded and set off an inferno that burned homes and warehouses in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, early Friday, killing at least three people and injuring more than 270, with the death toll expected to rise.

Many residents were likely inside their homes when the fire reached their houses late in the night in the city’s Embakasi neighborhood, said Isaac Mwaura, a government spokesman.

The truck explosion ignited a huge fireball, and a flying gas cylinder set off a fire that burned down the Oriental Godown, a warehouse that handles garments and textiles, Mr. Mwaura said. Several other vehicles and businesses were damaged by the inferno, which started around 11:30 p.m. on Thursday.

The proximity of the industrial company to residences raised questions about enforcement of city plans. Officials at the county government have been accused of taking bribes to overlook building codes and regulations.

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 yards from the scene of the explosion had been broken by a flying gas cylinder. Electric wires lay on the ground, and nothing remained in the burned-out warehouse except the shells of several trucks.

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

He said he had warned a black car not to drive through the area, but the driver insisted and his vehicle stalled because of the fumes.

He said that he also had grabbed two children and that they had hid in a sewage ditch until the explosions ended. His family was not present at the time, but Mr. Juma said he had lost everything he owned in the fire.

Caroline Karanja, a neighbor, said that the smell and smoke were still choking, and that she would have to stay away for a while, because she had young children.

“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,” she said.

The police and the Kenya Red Cross reported three deaths, and Wesley Kimeto, the Embakasi police chief, said that the toll might rise as the situation became clearer.

The government and the Red Cross said that 271 people had been taken to several hospitals with injuries.

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