Top Stories / National
Sunday, 11 Dec 2016 12:31 EATnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.com
The government has confirmed the death of at least 40 people, many burnt beyond recognition, following a road accident at Kinungi along the Nairobi-Nakuru highway where a fuel tanker lost control and rammed into several other vehicles before catching fire. The accident, which involved 14 other vehicles, was attributed to the erection of unmarked speed bumps on a downhill stretch of the highway.
While initial information indicated that the trailer was carrying fuel, latest reports hold that it had a highly flammable gas whose identity has not been given. The National Disaster Management Unit has joined search and rescue operations, according to a statement from its deputy director for communication Pius Mwachi Masai. Nevertheless, fuel tankers have caused similar accidents in the past.
According to witnesses of the Saturday night accident, at around 9.30pm, the driver of the tanker lost control upon running over the bumps and hit oncoming vehicles before bursting into huge flames which consumed the other vehicles. “The scene looks like a horror movie,” said a person who travelled there early this morning to help identify a relative believed to have perished in the accident.
The deaths have sparked a furore on social media and focused the spotlight on the regulation of fuel tankers which transport oil products from Mombasa to Western Kenya and Uganda by road. According to existing traffic regulations, oil tankers should seize operations by 9pm and resume at 6am in the morning. The rule is poorly enforced, and tankers roam the road at night. The vehicle that caused the accident seems to have been on the road throughout the night until the accident happened.
There is also the question of what use the oil pipeline from Mombasa to Western Kenya serves when petroleum dealers continue to transport oil from Mombasa to Uganda and such western Kenya towns as Eldoret and Kisumu by road. Government figures show that it is cheaper to use the pipeline, whose construction was premised on the need to increase the efficiency of oil transportation and reducing the number of road accidents involving trailers. However, small oil dealers prefer to use tankers which are more expensive due to unique benefits that accrue from their use.
With oil tankers, sources told the Kenya Free Press, the dealers are able to tinker with records about the amount of fuel they sell and declare less taxes to the Kenya Revenue Authority. Moreover, fuel meant for foreign markets like Rwanda and Burundi, and which is therefore not taxed in Kenya, can be diverted to the local market without commensurate taxation.
Therefore, despite the high costs of transporting fuel by road such transport costs, parking charges, driver charges, trailer tear and wear, insurance and weighbridge costs, the marketers still end up making more money. "Much more money that allows them even to compromise officials of the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) who look the other way," the source said.