In 2011, a pipeline fire caused by an explosion after a fuel spill in Nairobi led to the death of 100 people and hospitalisation of 116 with varying degrees of injuries. Investigations revealed in 2012 that the fire was caused by “a leaking gasket, which sent rivers of super petrol flooding through storm drains into a slum area.
The rivers of petrol exploded into flames, resulting in one of the worst fire disasters in the country,” Daily Nation reported.
Whereas we have not witnessed a fire as a result of the same in Uganda, we have had a fair share of accidents involving fuel tankers on our roads.
In 2002, for instance, 70 people were burnt to death when a fuel tanker and a bus collided at Rutoto, Bunyaruguru (formerly Bushenyi) District. Many other such accidents have happened sporadically after that.
Then last Sunday, a fuel tanker at Kyambura Trading Centre in Rubirizi District collided with cars before bursting into flames. The tragic incident resulted in the death of 23 people, many others injured and about 40 retail shops burnt.
Petrol is highly inflammable and can cause a devastating fire explosion if not handled with care. Another potentially tragic accident in waiting is the proliferation of fuel stations and fuel deports in and around Kampala.
According to Uganda National Bureau of Standards guidelines, a fuel station must be located at least 1,000 metres away from another. This distance should also apply to the proximity between fuel farms and residences/towns because in essence, they store even a much bigger volume of fuel.
For instance, what would happen if a leakage similar to what happened in Sinai slum were to happen in Banda slum, which is home to one of the top fuel depots in the country?
A survey by Daily Monitor last year established that some of the fuel stations are in the vicinity of residential areas, schools, motor garages, and taxi parks while others are located just opposite or adjacent to one another. Each time an incident involving a fuel tanker happens, the safety debate is reawakened only for the issue to be buried days later.
Yet we should be deliberate about fuel, its transportation and storage to ensure the safety of lives and property. Fuel depots should be located away from towns just like the number of fuel stations should be reduced and their location should adhere to the requisite 1,000 metres away from another.
And most importantly, when transporting fuel, our roads should have lanes/sections reserved for the fuel tankers so as to avoid their collision with other vehicles.