NAIROBI - At least six people were killed and several injured in an explosion at a steel mill in an industrial town outside the Kenyan capital, officials said yesterday.
The blast occurred on Monday evening at Devic Steel Mills Limited in Athi River township, about 40km southeast of Nairobi, said Machakos District Commissioner John Litunda.
He said five people were killed instantly in the explosion which happened at a boiler where workers were loading scrap metal. Nine workers who sustained serious injuries were taken to hospitals in the Kenyan capital while two were treated in dispensaries in Athi River town.
One of the six patients admitted to Nairobi's Kenyatta National Hospital died early yesterday, taking the death toll to six, the facility's spokesman Herman Wabomba said.
"Three patients in the intensive care unit are in critical condition while two others are in a general ward," he added.
National police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said police were probing the cause of the blast.
"In addition to the deaths, three people who worked in the factory are yet to be accounted for," Kiraithe said.
Litunda said local authority and army fire engines were battling to put out the fire that had spread throughout the entire factory.
The structure was still smouldering amid scattered rubble from the explosion, a photographer at the scene reported.
A factory manager speculated that the blast was caused by munitions which had been mistakenly included among the scrap metal that was loaded into the boiler.
"The explosion might have been caused by dead bomb shells that were among the scrap and went off when exposed to extreme heat," said factory manager Narendra Raval.
"We had just loaded scrap metal into the boiler, which was about to reach extreme melting point, then suddenly we heard a very loud bang which was followed by a huge fire and smoke," said one factory worker who gave his name as John.
"I cannot remember what followed next, but I am lucky to be alive," he added.
Trade unions in Kenya have often complained that factories expose workers to danger by failing to give them protective gear among many other labour violations. - Sapa-AFP