Saturday, January 31st. 2009: In Molo, Nakuru, Kenya - 91 people are dead and over 100 others are injured after a petrol truck overturned and the surrounding community gathered with containers to benefit from the free fuel. With the volatile gasoline, the fumes of petrol and static electricity (relative humidity was below 25%), one of the villagers must have ignited static spark and then an explosion. It is a pity tens of souls has been lost this way.
They can comfort themselves that one of them must have been smoking a cigarette but that is not true. The next time they get another truck, they will say, "no smoking", but the explosion will still happen.
More on Static Sparks and Your Safety Here.
The number of the dead has since gone up to 111 and over 176 others are injured.
This explosion is called BLEVE or Boiling Liquid Evaporation Vapor Explosion.It is extremely deadly and cannot be stopped.Initially there is too much gas- carbon content in the vehicle and it cannot explode.The gas leaks out and when the carbon vapor reaches a flash point ,proper mixture of carbon and oxygen,the fumes ignite and the vehicle explodes.Similar to oil tanker -ships and petrol pumps.Its possible someone dropped something metallic which let of a spark.
There are incidents when people stopped to look at a a burning tanker on a highway and got seriously injured and some died standing a kilometer away from the tanker due to the blast-shrapnel's.
In this case, the tanker overturned and there was a flood of petrol all over the tarmac. They say explosion happened after about 30 minutes. People scrabbled for the free gasoline with the hope they can resell it for some cash. The air was dry and relative humidity was low meaning the natural discharge of static electricity in their bodies through the air was poor. There was a high concentration of petrol fumes in the air and all it required was just a tiny spark for explosion to be complete. With a gathering of over 500 people and a relative humidity of less than 25%, this was almost 100% sure a static spark was to be achieved. And it was achieved and explosion occurred.
The explosion heated the air creating a very low pressure sufficient to pull your lungs. People may have tried to escape but must have been pulled by the low pressure from left and right to the centre where fire was.
The sad thing is that people will do it again and again because they have been led to believe these fires are started by one of them smoking a cigarette. Next time when a gasoline tanker overturns, they will say “make sure this time none of us smokes a cigarette” and the explosion will still happen.
The death toll has now risen to 120.
In this case, the tanker overturned and there was a flood of petrol all over the tarmac.
Where the fuel exits from the tanker is where the fire will start.This fire will then spread inside the tanker when the carbon oxygen ratio is correct which causes it to explode. Bronze coated tools are used to prevent static sparks.
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