Kenya in shock as road crash toll hits 52Sat, 01 Jul 2023 15:43:09 GMT

The death toll from a horrific road crash in western Kenya rose to 52 on Saturday, officials said, as rescuers worked to clear the wreckage from one of the deadliest traffic accidents in the country in recent years.A truck carrying a shipping container veered out of control and ploughed into multiple other vehicles and people thronging a busy roadside junction on Friday evening, plunging the nation into shock and mourning.Erick Mutai, governor of Kericho county where the accident occurred, gave an updated death toll of 52 and said it included 31 men, 18 women and two children.Transport Minister Kipchumba Murkomen said during a visit to the crash site at Londiani junction that new safety measures would be introduced after what he described as a “terrible” and “painful” tragedy.”Investigations have been launched to establish the cause of this accident but we urge drivers to be cautious and follow the rules,” he told reporters.In a later statement, he also gave a death toll of 52 and said 32 people had been injured, adding that the truck involved was registered in Rwanda.Kenyan station Citizen TV reported that the vehicle’s driver had died, but this could not be immediately confirmed independently.The trailer rammed into private cars, minibuses, boda bodas (motorcycle taxis) and market stalls on the side of a busy highway between the lakeside town of Nakuru and Kericho, an area known for its lush tea plantations.Footage late Friday showed the mangled wreckage of multiple vehicles as rescuers worked in the dark under pouring rain and ambulance sirens wailed.On Saturday, large crowds of onlookers were at the scene, where the overturned container was stuck in a ditch, debris was strewn across a wide area, including car seats, piles of fruit, a damaged axle and a lone black boot.- ‘People screaming all over’ -“The accident happened in a flash, many of them had no time to escape,” said one witness, Joel Rotich.”There was a lot of confusion because people were screaming all over and everyone was running after the accident.”Kenyan leaders including President William Ruto expressed their condolences, along with African Union Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat.”My prayers and thoughts go to the families affected by the Londiani road tragedy, with wishes for a full recovery to the injured,” Faki tweeted.Londiani was trending on Twitter, with many people posting sombre pictures of a lit candle next to the name of the junction.The Kenya Red Cross, which has been involved in the rescue efforts, launched a blood donation drive for the injured survivors.Murkomen said the government planned to arrange for street traders to move from roadside spots to designated market areas in a bid to avoid such catastrophes in future.He also announced plans for increased safety measures at the accident site such as speed bumps and cameras and called for long-distance truck drivers to ensure they have proper rest breaks and also take refresher courses.According to figures from Kenya’s National Transport and Safety Authority, at least 21,760 people were involved in road accidents last year, including 4,690 who died.Last July, at least 34 people perished when a bus plunged into a river at a notorious blackspot in central Kenya, while a bus crash in October 2018 in Kericho county claimed the lives of 50 people.In a speech in December, Murkomen blamed human error for much of the carnage on the roads, including drunk driving, speeding, fatigue and dangerous overtaking.The World Health Organization said in September last year that Africa has the highest road traffic fatality rate in the world, with more than 800 people killed every day.