On Tuesday, Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki declared Wednesday, Sept. 14 and Thursday, Sept. 15 to be days of national mourning following Monday’s oil pipeline fire that has claimed the lives of more than 100 people to date, and injured more than 100 others. The president and the national Cabinet have determined that during these two days, the national flag shall fly at half-mast and there will be no celebrations. They also made an official public statement expressing their sincerest sympathies for the families of victims and for those injured by the fire, pledging government support.
Monday’s oil pipeline fire occurred at the Sinai Lunga Lunga slums in Nairobi, home to thousands of low-income workers employed in the city’s industrial section. Though the exact cause is still being investigated, it is suspected that a pipeline may have burst, spilling oil into the drainage system, and the fire could have resulted from a cigarette discarded into the underground drainage. Media outlets have called it the worst fire disaster since January 2009.
“So far we have 300 families which were affected by the disaster and we organized for the evacuation of these victims to three social halls within the city,” said Kenya’s Permanent Secretary of Special Programmes Andrew Mondoh.
According to authorities, it is women, young people and those living in extreme poverty who have been most affected by the fire tragedy. Member of Parliament Eugene Wamalwa urged leaders to do all they can to empower the youth so that they can support themselves. Wamalwa also stated that the calamity took place because of the people’s extreme poverty, which led them to siphon fuel to earn a living. Reports said some slum residents rushed to collect fuel leaking from the pipe into an open sewer before the explosion.
At Opportunity International, we have been following the tragedy very closely, keeping all of the people of Nairobi in our thoughts and prayers. Our local staff members appear to be safe but we are still receiving details about many of our Kenyan clients. As we mourn with the Kenyan people, it is tragedies like this that remind us why we are committed to protecting the most vulnerable people living in extreme poverty all over the world. Even in the face of devastating loss, our clients can use financial services and insurance products to rebuild their lives, protecting them from slipping even deeper into poverty following a tragedy.
If you would like to make a donation to Opportunity to support the sustainable solution of microfinance, please click here. Please continue to keep all the victims of this terrible tragedy in your prayers.