The extent of the inferno that gutted the Tanzanian side of the Rusumo One Stop Border Post (OSBP) on Sunday was avoidable, according to a member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).
The fire left one person dead and six fuel tanks and a tractor destroyed.
The risk posed by the lack of emergency services including fire hydrants at border posts in the region rudely came to the limelight when a fuel tanker rammed into others on the Tanzanian side of the Rusumo OSBP.
The fatal accident happened just five months after members of the regional parliament visited the border crossing and were told about the risk posed by lack of emergency services, including fire hydrants.
Lawmakers had then promised to advocate for the same, among other things.
“I am saddened to learn of the fire accident at Rusumo border post where we visited as EALA members a few months ago. During our visit we pointed out the risks of such accidents given the fact that there were no fire engine and ambulance at the border post despite the fact that there was great risk due to the many fuel tankers packed there all the time,” MP Aden Abdikadir (Kenya), who was part of a delegation that toured the border early this year, told The New Times on Monday.
“This was an avoidable accident. This OBPS is very strategic to the people of the EAC and the necessary facilities, as recommended, should be put in place urgently to avert similar future incidents and to build the capacity to manage such accidents better.
Early March, as a team of EALA lawmakers wrapped up an on-spot assessment of EAC organs, institutions and facilities on the Central Corridor they visited the Rusumo OSBP.
At the time, a Rwandan border manager told MPs that firefighting equipment, which is not readily available at the border, was of major concern.
The border manager pointed to the potential risk involved due to “the material that crosses the border including highly inflammable gas.”
Lawmakers heard that the threat was not only confined to Rusumo.
The border manager requested the regional Assembly to take it as a policy [recommendation] regarding the design of the OSBP Act for other facilities that will be constructed to have special parking for fuel and gas trucks as well.
In case of fire, a border official remarked, “it would be disastrous.” And this is just what happened on Sunday.
At the time, lawmakers indicated that the Assembly would do a report for the EAC Council of Ministers, the central decision-making and governing Organ of the Community, for action.