Slum fire in Kenya puts focus on social injustice

Rt. Rev Martin Kivuva, talking to one of the victims at Tom Mboya Camp during his visit. Credit: Caritas

Caritas Kenya is supporting survivors of a huge fire that devastated the Sinai slums in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on 12 September.

Over a hundred people were killed and a hundred more injured after a pipeline burst and leaked fuel into the Ngong river, which passes through this slum area. Kenya Pipeline Company  managing director Selest Kilinda blamed a faulty valve.

People from the densely populated shanties had already started siphoning the fuel when the fire started. People cooking close to the pipeline may have sparked off the inferno.

A group of Caritas staff members and church leaders visited the site of the disaster and met with survivors in a temporary camp and those with serious burn injuries in the hospital.

The camp hosts about 200 men, women and children. Caritas Kenya jointly with Caritas Nairobi donated food items, blankets and mosquito on 14 September in the camp.

Rt. Rev. Martin Kivuva, Bishop Chairman of Caritas Kenya sent condolence message to the relatives and friends who have been affected.

A statement by the Bishops Conference said the scale of the tragedy was of unheard of proportions and urged the Kenya government to take greater responsibility in preventing future disasters.  “The government must in effect take full responsibility to transform the living environments of the citizens,”it said. The statement urged political leaders to be the agents of development in the country and not of corruption and poverty.

A similar tragedy occurred in Sachang’wan in 2009 when two people were killed as they scrambled to collect spilt fuel, and the Kenyan bishops say this shows there is an urgent need for civic education about the inherent dangers.

Caritas Internationalis

President: Cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle
Secretary General: Michel Roy

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