Embakasi gas explosion update: Victims demand compensation

Victims of the Mradi village gas explosion in Embakasi, East Nairobi, are demanding compensation from the plant owner and the government, saying the incident has shattered their way of life.

They have lost their lives, livelihoods and body parts – leaving some of them permanently disabled.

The deadly explosion occurred on Thursday night, killing three people and maiming more than 300.  The injured are being treated at various hospitals in the city.

Camped at the gate of the Embakasi Social Center, the injured, some with bandages for severe burns, said they would fight for compensation with the last drop of their blood.

They also lamented that they have been neglected, yet donations meant to help them in this time of need continue to trickle in from well-wishers and various non-governmental organizations.

Wrapped in a Maasai shuka, Kevin Mwangi, 38, a victim of the tragedy, wore a tearful face and looked dejected as he waited to receive food from donations at the Embakasi Social Center.

Also Read: Embakasi fire tragedy: The deadly cost of a broken system

Mwangi, who works in the matatu sector as a driver, said he could no longer fend for himself after suffering burns on the right side of his body and his hindquarters. He can neither sit down nor provide for his family as he did before the incident.

“I have burns on my hand and behind and sitting is a problem.  I came here to look for food because I can no longer drive and walking is hectic for me. Where will my wife and four children who depend on me get food?” asked Mwangi.

“The only way I can get my life back on track is to be compensated because I also lost my belongings in the fire incident. I wouldn’t come here every day to get food,” he added.

The 38-year-old was struggling to work and the Masai shuka he had covered himself in was stained with blood. He was one of hundreds camped outside the gate of the Embakasi Social Center, where food donations are received and stored.

Standing next to Mwangi was an aging Florence Muthiani, holding the hands of her granddaughter, Oprah Natasha, who also had a somber face. Muthiani, 74, said her house was partially destroyed in the blast and she lost her belongings and furniture.

Natasha, 13, a student at Embakasi Primary School, suffered burns on her hands and legs. Elderly Muthiani called on the owner of the farm to compensate her and other residents whose livelihoods have been severely disrupted by the incident.

Also Read: Death toll in Embakasi blast rises to 6 as three more people die

“I live a few meters from where the explosion took place, and luckily I wasn’t at home during the incident. How can I start from scratch at my age, while my granddaughter is here recovering from injuries? Let them give us money according to the extent of the damage so that we can rebuild our lives,” said Muthiani.

The names of those affected by the incident have been registered with the Kenya Red Cross. But Red Cross Preparedness and Response Manager Anthony Muchiri told the Nation that the registration was to ensure that those affected receive food and medical care, not compensation.

“We are not looking for compensation but to ensure that we help those affected during the incident. We will make sure that everyone gets food and medicine because as you have seen, some of them were badly burned,” said Muchiri.

The County Assembly Member for the area, Ricardo Nyantika, promised to help the residents get compensation and dismissed suggestions by the owner of the gas plant where the explosion took place that he was running a garage.

Nyantika said he will ensure that all those affected get justice as everyone has registered their names with the authorities and as a leader, he also has a parallel list to follow up with.

“The owner of the gas storage and refilling facility must take responsibility. Those who gave him a license should also take responsibility and as a leader, I’m ready to help them fight in court,” said Nyantika.

The MCA called for the arrest and prosecution of the owner of the plant and those who helped him set up the plant without following the law. He said a full investigation should reveal who issued a license that allowed the plant to be set up without considering the imminent danger.

“People have lost their property, but the worst part is that some have suffered very serious injuries. The compensation must be commensurate with the level of injury and I’m ready to take them to court and go with them on this journey,” added Nyantika.

In the courtyard, smoke was still billowing from the left side of the building, with residents claiming there was an underground tank and calling on the Nairobi County government to continue monitoring the situation.

At Embakasi Health Center, the injured were being attended to, with Nairobi Hospital setting up camp at the health facility to provide medical services to those affected.

President William Ruto has vowed that heads must roll following the incident, insisting that the owner of the plant must face the law.

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