Sachang’wan tanker fire survivors still in pain

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020 00:00 |
Left: Mark Njuguna, who was injured in the Sachang’wan fire tragedy. ABOVE: Residents pay tribute to kin who died in the fire. Photo/PD/NOAH CHEPLOEN

Noah Cheploen @cheploennoah

Mark Njuguna vividly remembers the events of that fateful night when a huge ball of fire engulfed him and other residents as they scooped fuel from an oil tanker that had overturned at Sachang’wan area along Nakuru-Eldoret road. 

Slightly more than a decade later, Njuguna still regrets the terrible decision he made to join his neighbours on a mission to scramble for free fuel. 

Festering wounds, scars and a mass grave at the scene of the tragedy are a stark reminder of the moment things went horribly wrong for them on the night of January 31, 2009, as the rest of the country was probably preparing to go to bed. 

“It was not our wish. Poverty and hunger took us there,” Njuguna recalls with a tinge of pain, regret and sadness. 

Last Friday, hundreds of survivors gathered at the scene of the deadly fire accident, something that has become an annual ritual, to pray, mourn, and remember their loved ones who died in the tragedy.

“It’s been 11 years of pain and tears… in fact everyday poses a fresh challenge, it is like going through fire daily,” says the father of four. 

“I stayed in hospital for nine months and thereafter I was discharged not because I had recovered but because may be there was no hope of recovering,” he says.

Although he thanks the government for paying his hospital bill which amounted to Sh1.5 million, the survivor says life has become unbearable because the wounds have failed to heal, therefore, rendering him helpless.

Pointing at his legs, Njuguna showed us the wounds that deformed his legs from the knees to the toes.

“It is becoming too much for me because there is nothing I can do… I only sit and wait for my wife and my brother to help with simple tasks,” he said, tears welling up in his eyes. 

Fill gap

“I have lost count of the times I have travelled to Nakuru Level Five Hospital but doctors say they can only dress the wounds,” he adds.

For Annah Mugure life has never been the same again after losing two sons to the inferno. 

“The pain is still fresh,” she says.

“I used to rely on them a lot because they were hardworking young men and they usually brought something home… nobody can fill the gap they left,” she says. 

“I want to caution young people; don’t go near any vehicle that has overturned on the road, not just oil tankers but any vehicle even those carrying bread and sweets because anything can happen,” she adds. 

Mercy Kosgei, a mother of four, lost her husband and his brother to the tragedy while Annah Kebenei lost her husband. 

Kebenei’s only hope is that her son, who was in Form Three when his father died, is now a master’s degree holder and will hopefully secure a job and take care of the family.

Some 130 people died in the inferno while many others were injured. 

“... some 130 victims whose names are engraved on this plaque were burnt beyond recognition, and 78 of them were laid to rest in this mass grave.

Sixty nine other victims died in hospital and were buried by their relatives...” reads the plaque at the grave site in part.

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