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of the British Broadcasting Corporation



Sunday, 20 August, 2000, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK
Kenya gas train explodes

The remains of the cargo train which crashed early on Sunday
The remains of the train burnt for hours

Police in Kenya say that 17 people have been killed after a train carrying liquefied gas from Mombasa to the capital Nairobi, exploded and caught fire early on Sunday.

Many others were injured in the accident, which happened in Athi River town, some 25km east of Nairobi.

We thought maybe it was a bomb blast

Stanley Shivayilu
"Sixteen people died at the scene and one died later in hospital," Christine Mutua, a railway police officer, told Reuters news agency.

Most of the victims were residents of nearby houses, which were engulfed when flames spread to homes along the railway line. The victims were caught in their sleep.

"They looked like ashes, only two could be seen as bodies," an ambulance driver, Richard Njiru, said.
Ma p of Kenya showing the location of the crash
The goods train, which was carrying eight coaches of gas to Nairobi, overturned just after midnight.

Reports say that some of the rear wagons became detached from the rest of the train on a steep hill, rolled backwards down the slope, left the track, and then exploded.

Houses along the track provide accommodation for railway workers.

"We thought maybe it was a bomb blast. We came out of our houses and ran towards a big light. We passed the bodies of people who were already burned," said Stanley Shivayilu, who lives near the crash scene.

Fire smouldering

The fire was still smouldering hours later, while the train's engine continued to block the main Nairobi-Mombasa railway line.

Body being removed from the scene of the crash
Many more people are said to have been injured
Kenya has had a history of serious train accidents.

Last Tuesday, up to 20 people are feared to have died when a train was travelling from Butere to Kisumu became derailed in heavy rain near Lela, some 400km north-west of the capital, Nairobi.

In March last year, 32 people were killed when a passenger train on the Mombasa-Nairobi railway left the tracks.