The death toll from the Siaya fuel tanker tragedy rose to 17 as identification of 13 bodies that were burnt beyond recognition began on Tuesday.
Grief-stricken families trooped to Yala sub-county hospital, where a multi-agency team from Nairobi and Kisumu converged to take DNA samples from family members and the remains of the dead.
The tragedy occurred when a fuel tanker collided with a lorry transporting milk at Malanga market, Gem Constituency, and burst into flames on Saturday.
Siaya County Referral Hospital medical superintendent Liech Adoyo confirmed that a pregnant woman who had sustained severe burns in the inferno was one of the two who died yesterday. “The woman suffered 90 per cent burns and we lost her at around 5.30am today morning,” said Dr Liech.
He told the Nation that the other victim – a man who had also suffered severe burns – died in the morning. Some 22 patients were being treated at the hospital, a majority of whom had suffered more than 70 per cent burns.
At the Yala sub-county facility were five patients with below 30 per cent burns, and one at Inuka hospital. Collection of DNA samples began at 9.30am, after nearly 50 people from the affected family members arrived at the Yala morgue.
Samples were taken from the 13 bodies as well as close family members for analysis in Kisumu.
The identification came at a time affected families were struggling to come to terms with the deaths of their loved ones in the explosion that saw nearby maize farms consumed by a raging fire.
By 11.30am, a team from the government chemist, detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and officials from the National Disaster Management Unit had listed the names of the victims’ family members and taken their samples.
“We are here to ensure the families register and collect forensic specimens for DNA analysis at the regional chemist in Kisumu. The exercise has been successful,” said an official.
The samples were taken from either the victims’ mothers or siblings. There was, however, a challenge when it came to an orphaned girl.
“In this case, since the mother of the child remarried and went to the new union with her daughter, we had to trace where she was born to find any of her siblings. If we fail, we shall use arithmetic deduction where, after identifying all the bodies, we shall assume the remaining one is that of the girl,” said the official.
In the afternoon, a meeting was held in Mutumbu where the multi-agency team, Gem MP Elisha Odhiambo, and the affected families, were to collate data and share updates on the tragedy.
“We expect the tests results to be out in the next three or so days so that we can identify the bodies and begin burial preparations,” said Mr Odhiambo.
Only the four people who died at the referral hospital while undergoing treatment have thus far been identified. An inter-denominational prayer service has been scheduled for tomorrow for the grieving families.