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Embakasi gas explosion: Who slept on the job of ‘first responder’?

As the victims of Embakasi gas disaster continue to mourn their loved ones, and others count their losses, the question of who slept on the job of first responder that could have prevented the gas explosion still lingers.

It leaves media highly responsible of probing who in authority didn’t do their part on that fateful day, and lessons to be learned against such professional negligence for the future safety of Kenyans.

The residents’ media accounts of negligence to their past distress calls after numerous cases of gas leaks had been reported — including a last-minute call to police hotline 999 shortly before the explosion — point to a broken system of disaster preparedness and response.

A resident told of how he moved houses, fearing for his life and the family’s, after several efforts to have the issue resolved fell on deaf ears.

Media should view what happened at Mradi, Embakasi, as a call to interrogate our disaster management.

This points to another tragedy: lethargic behaviour amongst our first responders to a distress call, in what seems to be a poorly coordinated disaster awareness, and preparedness.

But what exactly prevented the nearest police from responding to the residents’ distress calls and to inform other authorities on the urgency of people’s evacuation?

The media ought to investigate our national disaster early warning systems, seamless coordination and preparedness, and how proactive they should be in deterring a delicate disaster such as a gas explosion.

Ideally, what should one do, or to whom can one report, when unable to control a potentially dangerous mechanised system such as a gas valve, as happened with the Embakasi driver of the gas truck that leaked LPG into the air, and who reportedly panicked and left the scene after being unable to close the gas lid?

Had the driver been well-trained and directed, the disaster would have been prevented.

Further, it should be clarified whether we should have an emergency calling system (with a specific point of call separate from police lines), where a desperate person can report a looming disaster.

Media as the community’s eye ought to dig deeper to unearth how response to a community distress call was compromised with no action taken on time, as simply as picking the police 999 call.

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