MOLO, Kenya – An overturned gasoline tanker exploded as hundreds of people were trying to scoop up free fuel, killing at least 111 people and wounding 200 in one of Kenya's deadliest accidents, officials said Sunday.
Hundreds of people were surrounding the overturned truck and blocking a road in the town of Molo on Saturday night when the petrol ignited in a blast that was felt for miles, said Charles Kamau, 22, who ran from his car as flames shot into the air.
"Everybody was screaming and most of them were running with fire on their bodies, they were just running into the bush," he told The Associated Press.
"I just ran to where there was no fire," he said at a Red Cross tent where he was reporting a missing friend Sunday.
Overwhelmed hospitals nearby were packed with victims, including small children, suffering from horrific burns. Many were lying on the floors, hooked up to drips and moaning in pain as doctors tried to save their lives.
Supplies, including body bags and extra medicine, were being sent by helicopter to the region.
Burnt-out cars and charred clothing littered the road where the shell of the tanker stood in Molo, about 105 miles outside the capital, Nairobi. Authorities were combing through the scorched forest by the road for any corpses.
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said at a news conference that it appeared that someone's cigarette caused the explosion but police were still investigating.
The Kenya Red Cross said the death toll was 111 but was expected to rise.
"Most of the families will have a hard time because these bodies are charred beyond recognition," said Patrick Nyongesa, the regional manager for the Kenya Red Cross.
Trembling patients were loaded into ambulances Sunday for transfer to burns units.
Similar blasts are common in Nigeria, where people tap gas pipelines to pilfer fuel for cooking or resale on the black market. In 2006, a gasoline blast killed 200 people in Nigeria.
The Kenyan government has been criticized for poor safety regulations recently.
On Wednesday, a massive fire swept through a supermarket in downtown Nairobi, killing at least 25 people.
After the supermarket blaze, the Daily Nation said Nairobi's 3 million people are served by just one fire station situated close to a traffic-choked business district.