This is a story for you: How well prepared, equipped and trained are Kenya’s firefighters and police to handle road accidents involving petrol trucks? (updated Dec. 12 – see bottom)
A major accident that occurred last Saturday along the Eldoret-Malaba-Uganda highway raises serious questions. A petroleum truck overturned and exploded thereby releasing tones of petrol that began burning because it was probably not properly contained. That put hundreds of local residents in serious danger because they had flocked to siphon the fuel leaking out of the truck.
Soil and water resources were also severely affected. The police and firefighters had an agonizing task of trying to get things in order. And while the truck was still burning other petrol trucks were allowed to pass near the site just ten meters away. Read your investigative research questions as a journalist at the end of the article.
Saturday, Nov. 19, 8:45 a.m: The truck is burning. The police and a crowd of onlookers are blocking the road. A fire engine is trying to put out the fire with water only. That is not the correct method to control burning petrol because oil is lighter than water. Petrol floats on water and continues to burn. Angry residents reported that the firefighters came from the nearby sugar factory and carried the little amount of water and that the County Fire Squad did not turn up at all. (location of the accident site)
Same time: Other petrol trucks are waiting in line before they are later allowed to pass just next to the burning truck. A second explosion involving one of these trucks could have easily ensued leading to a catastrophe.
Saturday, Nov. 19, 10:50 a.m.
Firefighters and police have given up their efforts to contain the situation. The truck is being left alone. While it may be a good practice for firefighters in some cases to just let the fire burn out, as this article says, it is certainly not advisable to leave it without any safeguarding and without taking precautions.
Saturday, Nov. 19, 10:50 a.m.
Traffic is allowed to pass by, only meters away from the burning truck. Among the passing vehicles are other petrol trucks which could explode from contact with the heat and the fire.
Monday, Nov. 21, 9:15 a.m.
Lots of petrol is polluting the soil and ground water. No one is trying to limit the damage by pumping the fluid away.
Monday, Nov.21, 10:50 a.m.
The poor are trying to earn or save a few shillings by syphoning the leftover fuel for sale. While doing it they are putting their lives at serious risk. No government agency or officials are around to prevent or contain them.
Investigative research questions
About your regional fire squad:
- How long would it take firefighters to reach the road (or location) when an accident like this occurs?
- Are they well trained and equipped to fight fires with inflammable fluids like in this accident?
- Why did the firefighters from Bungoma not even leave their post and left the huge task to put out the fire on the fire squad from the sugar factory?
- What is good practice to follow after an oil spill?
- What is good practice for guarding accident sites?
About the police:
Why did police not block the site from other dangerous oil trucks and from petrol looters?
What is the best practice for the police to follow in a case like this?
About the regional authorities
Just recently the Bungoma county fire squad got upgraded with about 50 million Kenyan Shillings. What was this money spent for? How useful was its expenditure?
About the owner of the truck:
What is expected from the company that owns the truck?
Why – as it seems – did they not show up even two days after the accident to guard the truck and avoid further damage?
General and background
Find the internationally acknowledged correct rules for fighting petrol fires on the web or interview an expert about this.
The accidents happened along the route from Mombasa to Uganda where many tons of petroleum are transported each day. How many residents are endangered by such accidents along this route? Is the quite obvious negligence of the Bungoma county administration typical or is it a rare example?
This is the location of the accident
Update of Dec 12, 2016
According to unnamed sources within Bungoma County Administration the County’s fire squad does possess foam for fighting petrol accidents – but the fire truck could not move to the accident. The reason being that one driver had “the key” with him when he stayed at Eldoret during the time of the explosion.
Before blaming this driver alone think about several follow-up questions that are quiet obvious: How many keys, how many drivers, what are the rules for keeping keys … ???