As many as 100 people are feared dead in a fire caused by a leaking fuel pipeline in a densely populated area of Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, according to police.
The explosion took place on Monday in the Lunga Lunga industrial area, which is surrounded by a sprawling urban slum.
Flames leapt out from the pipeline in a radius of some 300 meters,setting shacks ablaze and incinerating scores of people, the Associated Press reported.
Reporters later saw clusters of charred bodies and blackened bones at the site. Some burned bodies floated in a nearby river filled with sewage, according to the AP. Homes had been built right up to the pipeline, the residents said.
"We are putting the number of dead at over 100, we are waiting for body bags to put the victims into," said Thomas Atuti, a local police commander.
"There had been a leak in the fuel pipline earlier, and people were going to collect the fuel that was coming out," said Joseph Mwego, a resident.
"Then there was a loud bang, a big explosion, and smoke and fire burst up high."
Francis Muendo, another resident, told the AFP news agency: "I have never seen this in my life. I have seen women and children burnt like firewood. The very worst was a woman burned with her baby on her back."
Local television channels aired images of smouldering skeletons as the fire raged through the slum covering an area police said was about one acre.
Children in school uniform ran in all directions, crying. Badly burnt slum dwellers staggered in a daze, skin peeling off their faces and arms, according to the Reuters news agency.
Raila Odinga, Kenya's prime minister, visited the scene of the inferno and promised help for the victims.
"The government will do everything possible to ensure the injured will be treated and the families who have lost their loved ones will be compensated," said Odinga, who spoke through the sun-roof of his 4x4 vehicle at the scene of the fire.
Mwai Kibaki, the Kenyan president, also visited patients with severe burns at the country's largest public hospital.
"People were trying to scoop fuel from the pipeline," a Red Cross official told AFP by telephone, adding that the organisation had sent a team to the scene.
Firefighters sprayed chemical foam to try to contain the fire, while both police and soldiers roped off the area and pushed people back from the area.
Al Jazeera's Mohammed Adow, reporting from Nairobi, said it is common for poor Kenyans to rush to burst pipelines and fuel tankers invloved in road accidents to collect fuel.
In 2009, at least 50 people were killed when a fire erupted while they were drawing fuel from an overturned tanker in western Kenya.