On 12 September 2011, international media sources reported a major fuel pipeline explosion and fire in the Mukuru-Sinai slum of Nairobi, Kenya. Over 100 people were burnt to death, while an equal amount of people were hospitalized with serious burn wounds. On 23 September 2011, an official request for environmental emergency response services was made by the Kenyan Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources (MEMR) through the United Nations Resident Coordinator (UNRC). The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), through their Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit, subsequently compiled an expert team to undertake a rapid environmental emergency assessment. The scope of the mission was to provide scientific information on the extent and nature of pollution and to assist the decisionmaking and priority-setting by the authorities and other actors for follow-up activities on the affected site. The mission took place from 9 to 16 October 2011.
The main conclusion of the mission was that the fire was not caused by a pipeline explosion as reported initially in (international) media, but by an industrial accident that caused a large amount of unleaded petrol to enter a storm water drainage system. A further conclusion was that a repetition of a similar type of accident is considered as highly likely.
The area where the accident took place is affected by pre-existing, chronic pollution and therefore no immediate clean-up action is needed for the remaining residues of the accident. There is no immediate threat to the drinking water supply as a result of the accident.
The mission established that there is a clear indication of other uncontrolled industrial effluents being released into the storm water drainage system and the Ngong River.
Detailed recommendations have been provided in the report detailing the immediate measures to take in order to prevent a re-occurrence of a similar type of accident. The competent authorities are urged to implement these measures without delay.
In addition, recommendations have been made to improve the preparedness for environmental emergencies both at the national level and at the local level, in particular through the implementation of UNEP’s programme on Awareness and Preparedness at the Local Level (APELL).
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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