At least 48 killed in road accident in western Kenya

This video grab taken from an AFPTV video on 30 June, 2023 shows the wreckage of a vehicle on the scene after an accident on the highway between the towns of Kericho and NakuruAFP

At least 48 people were killed when a truck lost control and ploughed into other vehicles and pedestrians at a busy junction in western Kenya on Friday, police said.

Television images showed scenes of devastation at the site of the crash, with the mangled wreckage of several minibuses and the overturned truck as rescue workers hunted in darkness for people feared trapped.

"So far we can confirm 48 dead and we are suspecting one or two are still trapped under the truck," local police commander Geoffrey Mayek told AFP after the accident on the highway between the towns of Kericho and Nakuru at around 6:30 pm (1530 GMT).

He said another 30 people had been seriously injured and rushed to various hospitals, warning that the toll could rise.

"I have seen a very bad scene, bodies and blood all over. So many people are dead," said one witness, Maureen Jepkoech.

Tom Mboya Odero, the regional police commander for the Rift Valley, said the truck travelling towards Kericho "lost control and rammed into eight vehicles, several motorcycles, people who were by the roadside, vendors, and other people who were on other businesses".

Kenyan leaders including President William Ruto expressed their condolences after the accident, which took place at a busy area known as Londiani junction.

Transport Minister Kipchumba Murkomen said on Twitter that the rescue efforts would be followed by investigations to determine the cause of the crash.

Collins Kipkoech, a senior doctor at Kericho County Hospital, said his facility's morgue had so far received 45 bodies while more victims were taken to other hospitals "and the rescue is still ongoing".

The Kenyan Red Cross, which sent ambulances and rescue workers to the scene, said heavy rains were hindering rescue operations.

"The truck was on high speed and it was hooting. It tried to avoid several vehicles before it came straight into the market," said witness Jepkoech.

"All I can say is that I am lucky to be alive because I saw what happened and I am alive because I ran, I am just lucky," she added.

'Happened in a flash'

Another witness, Joel Rotich, said: "The accident happened in a flash, many of them had no time to escape.

"There was a lot of confusion because people were screaming all over and everyone was running after the accident," he added.

"It took some time before people gathered courage and started helping those injured."

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.

In a speech in December, Murkomen blamed human error for much of the carnage on the roads, including drunk or reckless driving, speeding and dangerous overtaking among other reasons for crashes.

Figures for the first three months of 2023 showed a slight reduction in fatalities to 974, which the NTSA attributed to a government awareness programme.

"My heart is crushed," Kericho County governor Erick Mutai wrote on Facebook, describing it as a "dark moment for the people of Kericho, a highland area known for its extensive tea plantations.

"My heart goes out to the families who have just lost their loved ones," he said, adding that ambulances had been mobilised and all health facilities were on standby.

Ruto, for his part, said the country was mourning with the families who had lost their loved ones. He urged motorists to be extra cautious on the roads particularly when there was heavy rain.

"It is distressing that some of the fatalities are young people with a promising future and business people who were on their daily chores," he said on Twitter.