Lone Cigarette Ignites Pipeline Explosion in Kenya Slum

A cigarette butt thrown into an open sewer ignited the blaze, officials say

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Giving new meaning to the phrase "smoking kills," a horrific pipeline explosion in Kenya, which turned a Nairobi slum into a scorching inferno, is believed to have been started by a singular cigarette butt, reports the BBC.  Police say the blast has killed at least 100 people after a "cigarette butt" was reportedly "thrown into an open sewer that was filling with fuel." Another official on Kenya TV placed the body count at 120, says Reuters. According to the report, "the fuel had leaked from a tank in a depot belonging to the Kenya Pipeline Company." The death toll was exacerbated by residents attempting to collect the leaking fuel when all of a sudden "there was a loud blast, a big explosion, and smoke and fire burst up high," local Joseph Mwego tells AFP. By the sounds of it, it was a nightmarish scene:

Some of those who caught fire jumped into a nearby stream to try to extinguish the flames when their clothing and hair caught fire, but many succumbed to their injuries in the water. Police have placed a net across the stream to prevent the bodies from drifting away...

Bystanders covered their mouths to avoid choking on the acrid smoke. Fire fighters in protective clothing sprayed chemical foam to try to contain the fire, while both police and soldiers roped off the area and pushed people back from the area.

Noting the precedent for this type of disaster, NPR reports that a "similar tragedy happened in Nigeria five years ago, when more than 250 people were killed by an explosion that occurred as hundreds tried to collect gasoline from a pipeline that thieves had broken open." Reuters provides on-the-ground video footage below:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.