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Fuel tanker inferno kills many

By Agengella Abushedde

Mulago hospital struggles to treat survivors

About 40 people are feared to have died in a fire believed to have started when a fuel tanker and van were involved in an accident at Namungoona on the Northern Bypass road. Many more people sustained burns and other injuries.

The road which skirts Kampala city is favoured by motorists heading to the northern and northwest of the city or continuing to northern and western Uganda.

Some of these were caught up in the inferno together with a number of looters who allegedly attempted to siphon fuel from the distressed tanker. Most of the dead and injured ended up at the Mulago National Referral Hospital which for days following the accident was in a frenzy to save lives and reunite loved ones. Unfortunately, the doctors, nurses, and morgue attendants also had to deliver the bad news of deaths and help relatives and friends identify bodies of the victims, some of whom were burnt beyond recognition.

Doctors treating the survivors at the hospital said chances of some patients surviving were reduced because they suffered inhalation burns and had inhaled a lot of smoke.

Dr Byaruhanga Baterana, the executive director of Mulago said bodies of those brought in were being identified and DNA tests would be carried out in case physical identification was impossible. He said they were avoiding misidentified bodies being handed out in to unsuspecting bereaved parties.

Dr Byaruhanga said the DNA tests results to identify the bodies could take up to a week to process.

Byaruhanga commended the School of Medicine and the National Drug Authority for their support   to the hospital to cope with the large influx of patients and the dead.

Unlike in the past, the hospital appears to have coped quite well although challenges of resources were evident. The hospital director told journalists that all the medical treatment is free of charge including the DNA tests and consumables such as blood, bandages and drips.

Hospital staff said matters got a bit complicated when President Yoweri Museveni, who visited the scene of the blast and the hospital on July 1, offered Shs5 million to each of the injured and to representatives of the dead. Upon hearing the news of the offer, patients who had either been discharged or left to seek treatment elsewhere hurried back to the wards. One of them was Edward Nyanzi Tebesigwa.

Tebesigwa said he came back to the hospital on July 1.  He said he slept in the hospital corridor because all beds were occupied in the causality ward. When The Independent spoke to him on July 2, he was  all bandaged up and lying in one of the beds previously occupied by one of the three people who died the night before.

He said he was in the hospital to get his money.

And sure enough, the State House Comptroller, Lucy Nakyobe, who President Museveni had tasked to dish out the Shs5 million was in the hospital and soon came round to Tebesigwa’s bed. He asked Tebisigwa if the hospital management should open for him an account in a bank and deposit the money on it. Tebisigwa refused. Tebesigwa, whose names means `trust no one’, even refused the uncle who was taking care of him to receive it.

“Naye ayinza okuzilya,” he said, meaning he feared his uncle might cheat him.

Nakyobe then decided to stuff the money into the bedridden man’s pockets and moved on. Tebesigwa did not even says `thank you’ and went back to sleep.

Nakyobe said 52 people were affected in the fire as survivors and the dead and she had Shs260 to give them.

Asked how she would deal with those who had already been discharged or headed for burial, Nakyobe said the hospital had their records from their relatives and they would follow them up to their homes and give them their money.

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