Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. (Xinhua file photo)
NAIROBI, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) — Kenya has been thrown into mourning following the loss of at least 50 people in a grisly road accident in the western part of the country.
The early Wednesday morning road accident is the worst on Kenyan roads so far this year, with statistics showing fatalities on the highways are on the rise.
The 67-seater passenger bus that was headed for Kakamega, a town in western Kenya, from the capital Nairobi, is said to have veered off the road and rolled down a cliff at a place called Fort Ternan in Kericho County. Children and women were among the victims during the tragic incident.
The carnage shattered the holiday mood that had gripped the East African nation’s residents after the government declared Wednesday a public holiday.
The accident comes a day after data revealed road accidents have surged in the East African nation this year.
Road fatalities in Kenya rose 8 percent in the first half of 2018, according to the Kenya traffic police boss Samuel Kimaru.
Accidents claimed at least 2,345 people between January and June compared to 2,165 during the same period last year.
“As at June, there were 1,948 road accidents reported in the country as compared to 1,776 reported in the same period last year,” said Kimaru on Tuesday.
President Uhuru Kenyatta sent his condolences to the families of affected passengers, asking drivers to be cautious.
“My heartfelt condolences to the families of fellow Kenyans who lost their lives in a tragic road accident at Fort Ternan in Kericho County this morning and wish those in hospital quick recovery.” he said.
Opposition chief Raila Odinga similarly sent his condolences to friends and relatives of those who lost their loved ones in the road accident. “I appeal to the police to arrest the return of madness on roads,” said Odinga.
Former presidential candidate Martha Karua offered her prayers to families of victims and condoled with them.
“Who will save us from these accidents?” said former lawmaker Martha Karua. “My prayers and sympathies to affected families,” she added.
In Kakamega, where the accident victims were headed, a somber mood engulfed the town and neighboring regions as people came to terms with the tragedy.
Kenyans in their huge numbers took to social media to express their condolences as they asked the government to take action.
“This is unbearable pain; 50 people dead in one morning. Our roads have become death traps. My condolences to the family and friends of those who perished,” said lawyer Norman Magaya.
Both leaders and citizens debated also possible solutions to help curb the rise in road accidents. Senator Moses Wetangula noted the return of carnage on Kenyan roads should not be welcomed.
“Offenders must be punished to deter recklessness. I condemn the accident. The victims’ families should be compensated,” he said.
Others suggested having ambulances on standby along the highway so that victims can be saved on time in case of accidents.
“Some of the 50 lives would have been saved if there was first response to the accident. Let us have ambulances as priority,” said Hilda Juma.
Some Kenyans suggested that the standard gauge railway should be extended faster to western Kenya to curb road accidents and ease transport.
The Nairobi to western Kenya route is among one of those with highest number of road accidents. With the other being the Nairobi-Mombasa road, which, however, is now served by a railway line.