At least 120 people burnt to death on Monday when a fuel pipeline burst into flames in a slum area in the Kenyan capital, said an official.

“The death toll from bodies counted so far is 120. It is likely to rise because of the bodies in the river,” said an official.

Police earlier said more than 100 people had been killed in the explosion at Nairobi's Lunga Lunga industrial area, which is surrounded by the densely packed tin-shack housing of the Sinai slum.

“There had been a leak in the fuel pipeline earlier, and people were going to collect the fuel that was coming out,” said a resident.

“Then there was a loud bang, a big explosion, and smoke and fire burst up high.”

Many residents were caught up in the blaze, which started around 0530 GMT, and an AFP reporter at the scene counted scores of charred bodies around the fire.

“People were trying to scoop fuel from the pipeline,” a Red Cross official confirmed by telephone, adding that the organisation had sent a team to the scene.

Badly burnt bodies

Some of those whose clothing and hair caught fire jumped into a nearby stream to try to extinguish the flames, but many succumbed to their injuries in the water.

The police have placed a net across the stream to prevent the bodies from drifting away.

Houses close to the pipeline were also engulfed in flames, their tin roofs buckling and disintegrating and their badly burned residents evacuated for medical care.

Fuel leaks and oil tanker accidents in Africa often draw huge crowds scrambling to scoop fuel, resulting in many deaths due to accidental fires.

In 2009, 122 people were killed after a fire erupted while they were drawing fuel from an overturned tanker in western Kenya.

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