More than 30 people have died after a fuel tanker crashed into other vehicles and burst into flames outside the town of Naivasha in Kenya, officials have said.
“At 5am local time, the death toll was 33, but the search is still on,” Pius Masai of Kenya’s National Disaster Unit said early on Sunday. He added that rescuers were continuing to comb the area for bodies.
According to Masai, more than 11 vehicles burned when the tanker rammed into others on the road and caught fire.
Kenya’s Red Cross said the driver had lost control of the fuel tanker, which then crashed into other vehicles and “burst into flames”.
A passenger minibus and a police truck were among the vehicles gutted by the ferocious flames.
The accident occurred at Karai at the bottom of a long downward hill on the busy Nairobi-Nakuru highway, the main cross-country road leading from Kenya’s capital to the west of the country and on to Uganda.
Police and witnesses said the truck with Ugandan registration plates was travelling fast when it hit a speed bump and then lost control ramming into others.
At least 50 people injured in the accident have been received at a private hospital in Naivasha.
Witnesses described a fireball engulfing the vehicles with passengers inside. After firefighters put out the flames, rescue workers collected bodies from among the wreckage of charred cars strewn across the highway.
“It’s a terrible incident, people are burnt, some in their cars and others as they tried to escape,” said a police officer on the scene, according to AFP news agency.
Some survivors were treated on the scene by civilians and the Red Cross, while others were taken to the hospital. Corpses were put in body bags and loaded into pick-up trucks.
The busy highway is notorious for deadly accidents. In 2009 more than 100 people were killed and 200 injured elsewhere on the same road after a petrol tanker overturned and local people had gathered to collect the leaking fuel when a fire ignited.
Given the scale of Saturday’s disaster it is expected that the death toll may rise. The accident happened with Kenya in the throes of a nationwide doctors’ strike.