The curse of petrol siphoning by people unmindful of their safety has hit the country again, this time in Siaya County.
This is after 13 perished while at least 31 others have sustained burn wounds after a petrol tanker exploded in Malanga along the Kisumu-Busia Road on Saturday night.
In what now appears to be a repeat tragedy that Kenyans have refused to learn from, the victims were siphoning fuel from the tanker moments after it was involved in an accident with a lorry carrying milk from the opposite direction when it exploded.
According to Gem OCPD Moreso Chacha, the lorry carrying milk was travelling from Busia to Kisumu when it collided with the fuel tanker which was headed in the opposite direction.
The two rammed into each other and veered off the road, forcing the tanker to overturn.
In total disregard of the Covid-19 containment measures such as the 7pm to 4 am curfew, locals, including women and children, came out to scoop the petrol before the explosion that happened about 9.30 pm.
Mr Chacha said the public took advantage of police absence at the scene to siphon the petrol since one compartment of the tanker was already open.
"Out of impatience and ignorance, another resident, realising the other compartment was closed and delaying them, opened it to enable them siphon very fast before the police could arrive. In the process, it caused a spark and it blew up," said Mr Chacha.
According to a boda boda rider who ferried the injured to various hospitals, among those at the scene were pregnant women while one even scooped fuel with a child on her back.
At the scene, a wreckage of a motorcycle lay by the roadside with broken bones of people burnt beyond recognition strewn on the road.
Family members who lost their relatives mourned at the scene while others tried to trace their loved ones who were not in the hospitals.
The incident happened four kilometres from Sidindi, another spot where on July 13,1998, a petroleum tanker overturned and burst into flames during a scramble to loot fuel, leaving 39 people dead and scores nursing injuries.
Mr Chacha said more people could have been injured but ran to the villages for fear of arrest.
He pointed out that the fire was contained with the help of Busia County firefighters.
"We could not get a fire engine from Siaya County since it is in Nairobi for repairs according to government officials. With the help of the Busia one, we managed to contain the fire," he noted.
Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo blamed Kenya National Highways Authority (Kenha) for not putting the necessary signage on the Kisumu-Busia road to make motorists aware of the blind spots.
"We cannot have a major road without signage warning motorists of blackspots. This Kenha must take full responsibility because there have been many accidents around this spot where there is a notorious bump that cannot be seen easily by drivers," said Mr Odhiambo.
The local leaders including Dr George Jalang'o Midiwo accused the national and county governments of slow response to the tragedy.
He called on the government to help those who have sustained serious burns that cannot be treated in local hospitals.
"We have many people who have sustained 80 per cent burns yet the only facilities that can treat such is Kenyatta National Hospital and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital. We call on the government to assist the victims," said Dr Midiwo.