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Identification of Siaya tanker victims begins as families seek closure

By Harold Odhiambo | July 20th 2021
A team of DNA experts from government chemist collects samples from the relatives of those who died while siphoning fuel at Malanga in Gem constituency Siaya [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Families who lost their kin in the horrific fuel tanker burst in Malanga in Siaya turned up in their numbers at the Yala Sub-County Hospital mortuary to have their samples taken for DNA testing. The move is part of the efforts to determine the identity of the 13 bodies that were burnt beyond recognition during the accident.

The families are hoping the test will enable them identify the bodies of their kin to enable them proceed with burial plans. Most of them who were still optimistic that their kin were not part of the victims resigned to fate and offered their samples taken for DNA testing. DNA experts from the Government Chemist in Kisumu took samples from the mothers of the missing relatives.

An expert told The Standard on condition of anonymity that only samples from mothers had the probability of a more accurate finding. The process took about two hours after which the medical experts transferred the samples to the Government lab for processing.

Although they did not address journalists, a member of the team told The Standard that the results would take a few days to analyze. The experts had problems getting samples for one of the victims who is an orphan and does not have a close relative. They, however, took samples from a distant uncle of the deceased girl with an expert telling The Standard that they would rely on arithmetic deduction to identify her body.

“It is not easy for the families but we hope we will be able to complete the process as soon as possible,” he said.

At the mortuary several heartbroken families were still struggling to come to terms with their heavy losses. A number of them were still in tears as DNA experts from the Government Chemist took their samples. For the family of Maureen Achieng, a mother of five who also perished in the fire, her death has left a big gap.

What had been a simple visit to her sister Liner Atole turned tragic when she went to the road to witness other people siphoning oil from the toppled tanker. Her relatives including her husband, mother and sister were trying to comfort each other after her mother’s sample was taken for DNA analysis. Gladys Atole, the mother of the deceased said that she has been unable to sleep since the incident took place.

“I just want them to confirm to me the body of my daughter so that we can bury her,” she says.

Her son-in-law was too distraught to talk. He is now among the husbands who have been widowed as a result of the tanker burst. Other families who also lost their kin in the deadly fire said that they were hoping for closure with the DNA process. Samuel Aloo, who lost four of his relatives,  including his wife and grandson was still at pains after samples from their members were taken.

Aloo is also hoping that the body of his relatives will finally be identified. He, however, said that burial expenses would be a tall order for them.

“I do not have anything and we do not know how it will be,” he said.

On Monday, area MP Elisha Odhiambo said that the Government would give the affected families Sh50,000 each. Well-wishers spent time at the mortuary to counsel and console the families who are still struggling with trauma.

Jared Odeny, a counsellor at Amani Convention Center said that they have been offering psychosocial support to the affected families. “Most of them are still affected and it is important that we offer them support,” he said.

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