Lessons from the Kenyan infernos

Fire has been the mainstay of human civilisation since the Stone Age. For long, we’ve been able to harness the power of fire. However, once in a while, the flaming substance has reminded us that it’s not to be played with.

Fire has been the mainstay of human civilisation since the Stone Age. For long, we’ve been able to harness the power of fire. However, once in a while, the flaming substance has reminded us that it’s not to be played with.

It was with a sense of sadness that I learnt more than a hundred people were roasted alive in two blazes in Kenya; the first in a supermarket and the second around a petrol tanker that had crashed.

While these two events were miles apart and probably caused by different circumstances, it would be wise to examine the circumstances that might have caused the fire out breaks and the lessons we can learn.

First of all, I can’t presume to know details of the Nakumatt inferno, however, it is common sense that, in packed places like supermarkets and discotheques, in the event of a fire, the majority of people are killed because there aren’t adequate fire exits.

One cannot have, two hundred people packed in one area, without the provision of numerous fire exits. It doesn’t make sense. Because if you have just one known exit, the majority of the deceased will lose their lives after getting trampled by a panicked mob.

I can just imagine what would happen if there was a fire at a place like the Cadillac Nightclub, here in Kigali. This is a place that can have, up to, five hundred revellers dancing the night away. The disco has just a single entrance and a single exit.

So, if, for example, one of the electrical installations started to ignite, we’d be thinking about attending three hundred funerals.

True, finally, the police would enforce stricter building procedures, but do we have to lose hundreds before we do something about it?

I’m sure that there are certain building codes that aren’t being enforced by Kigali City Council, more especially where fire fighting equipment and fire exits are concerned.

The lack of these two crucial elements of fire safety is a time-bomb that will blow up in our faces unless we do something about it.

Funnily enough, traffic police give drivers a hard time if they don’t have a fire extinguisher in their car, I wish they’d do likewise in all the public buildings as well.

In the west, they have what they call ‘fire drills’ every once in a while; this is to teach people how to react in case of fire. These fire drills often take place at schools and places of work.

Maybe we should do likewise. Or, and maybe we can have a few more fire-fighting trucks as well. Let us not take for granted the fact that nothing has happened yet.

Just as surely as the sun rises in the east, there will be a major fire outbreak one day. I just hope that we are ready.

The second inferno was caused by one thing and one thing only; human greed. The wanainchi (common folk), having caught sight of a fallen petrol-tanker, decided to ‘harvest’ the ‘free’ fuel.

According to some reports, one fellow decided to light up a cigarette at that moment. Well, the petrol fumes probably light up, causing a chain reaction that ended up in countless funerals.  Well, there is a lesson in that as well.

While I deplore the needless deaths of people; I will be lying if I didn’t believe that it wasn’t totally self-inflicted and stupid thing to do.

While it might not be in good taste to speak ill of the dead, I will say one thing; while they certainly didn’t deserve such a gruesome end, they were surely tempting the gods. What were they thinking?

Were they thinking about the profits they were going to get from all the petrol in their jerrycans?

I have always had a problem with thieves and their activities. I am a firm believer in earning my wages and I have a real problem with those who try to ‘reap where they haven’t sown’ to paraphrase the Great Book.

If, the now deceased, hadn’t attempted to steal the petrol, we wouldn’t have had to mourn. So, while we, rightly, mourn the deaths of those people, maybe this can be a lesson to us, the living.

Don’t get un-necessarily greedy; in the long run it’s not worth it. There is no need to tempt fate.

Contact: sunny_ntayombya@hotmail.com                

 

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