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Kenya Naivasha: 39 dead as fireball engulfs traffic on road

media captionCars on fire after Kenyan oil tanker explosion

A fuel tanker has exploded on a road in Kenya, killing at least 39 people.

The tanker, heading to Uganda, appeared to lose control as it headed downhill before crashing into other vehicles in Naivasha, north-west of the capital Nairobi, said Mwachi Pius Masai, of the National Disaster Management Unit.

Among the dead are 11 General Service Unit officers, a paramilitary police force which provides VIP protection, including to the president.

Another 10 people were injured.

"This is a serious chemical incident. Police and other rescuers are still on the scene... clearing debris," Mr Masai told the Associated Press news agency on Sunday.

Eyewitness Moses Nandalwe told the BBC a huge fireball had quickly engulfed other vehicles on the busy road.

He feared that many people who had gathered at the scene of the crash were also caught in the inferno.

image copyrightAFP
image captionAt least 11 vehicles were caught up in the blaze

Another eyewitness, Peter Kimani, told the Associated Press the lorry was going at "high speed and lost control after hitting speed bumps".

Among the 11 burnt vehicles was a matatu minibus with 14 passengers. All of them died.

Correspondents say the accident has happened at a time when doctors are on strike, severely limiting services in government hospitals.

According to local newspaper the Daily Nation, union officials had been calling those on strike to urge them to go into work and help with the disaster.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta released a statement on Sunday morning calling the incident "a grizzly and unnecessary accident. The tanker responsible for the deaths should not have been on that particular road at that hour".

Mr Kenyatta added an investigation has already begun.

Kenya is struggling to reduce the number of deaths on its roads. According to figures released by Kenya's National Transport and Safety Authority, 1,574 people died in road accidents during the first half of 2016.

image captionThe explosion happened in Naivasha, north-west of Nairobi

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