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Media should follow up on Embakasi explosion like they do politics

By Dex Mumo

A massive gas explosion rocked the Embakasi area of Nairobi on Thursday night, February 1, 2024, reportedly killing at least three people, injuring more than 270 others, and leaving thousands of residents homeless and traumatised.

The explosion occurred around 11:30 pm when a lorry carrying gas cylinders exploded near a gas refilling plant in Mradi village.

The plant was reportedly declared illegal by the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority in 2020, and three people were arrested for operating it. However, the plant continued to work despite the arrests and high risks. Is Epra incapable of executing its duty as a regulatory authority?

In November 2020, Citizen TV aired a story about illegal gas filling stations in Embakasi, including the one involved in the recent explosion. The report featured the arrest of three individuals caught emptying gas from a truck into cylinders at one of the illegal stations.

The report warned the public, urging them to avoid purchasing cooking gas from unregulated dealers and highlighting the risks associated with such operations.

However, it is crucial to recognise that the media’s role goes beyond just reporting the issue. While the media played a vital role in raising awareness, following up on such stories and holding relevant authorities accountable is essential.

Our media should go back to the traditional approach to reporting, which is different from the current quick ‘pick and drop’ journalism.

The press has a chance to unearth similar illegal traders and dig deeper into the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority and fuel traders for possibilities of illicit collaborations to break the law, thus endangering the lives and property of innocent Kenyans.

While the media cannot be blamed for what happened, there are opportunities that scribes have that they never had before the explosion—such opportunities can be exploited through vigorous follow-up of any leads to possible illicit fuel businesses.

The tragic gas explosion in Embakasi serves as a lesson to the news media about the importance of their role as a watchdog and the responsibility they bear in guarding and ensuring public safety.

Epra declared the gas-filling plant illegal. It rejected multiple applications for construction permits due to safety concerns, including its proximity to residential areas.

Epra had requested the plant owners to submit a Qualitative Risk Assessment to gauge the potential blast profiles and ensure the safety of the surrounding areas. However, the plant failed to provide the requested QRA, indicating a disregard for safety guidelines. Why did the business proceed?

The news media should have further investigated and highlighted this failure, putting pressure on Epra to take appropriate action and prevent any illicit collaboration between unscrupulous officials and illegal business owners.

While the media did play a role in raising awareness about the presence of illegal gas filling stations, we still need follow-up and continued investigation.

The media should have continued to report on the actions taken by Epra or lack thereof, ensuring that the issue remained in the public eye and holding the authorities accountable for their responsibilities.

The explosion in Embakasi sparked public questioning about why the gas filling plant was allowed to operate despite being near residential areas.

This tragedy highlights the need for the media to report on such issues and continue investigating, following up, and holding authorities accountable for their actions or inaction.

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