Kenya oil blaze kills around 100

(Adds prime minister, latest figures)

MOLO, Kenya, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Rescuers combed a tanker crash site in Kenya on Sunday where around 100 people were killed when oil they were scrabbling for caught fire in one of the east African nation's worst accidents of recent times.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga said the disaster, in which 178 people were burned and injured, showed the desperation of poor Kenyans and the nation's lack of preparedness for accidents.

"Poverty is pushing our people into doing desperate things just to get through one more day," Odinga said during a visit to victims of the blaze, which took place on Saturday evening on a road near Molo town in the central Rift Valley.

"This being a rural area, there was no response by any disaster team because there is no such team."

Regional authorities revised the death toll to 94 from 111 after difficulties counting the bodies in darkness on Saturday.

"We counted 89 bodies last night and five have died this morning," Rift Valley provincial commissioner Hassan Noor Hassan told reporters.

The Red Cross said up to 110 had died, a health minister said 97, and police gave a toll of 91.

When the oil tanker careered off the road, hundreds of locals began pouring to the scene with jerrycans to try to scoop up some free fuel. Suddenly, the oil caught light and the blaze engulfed the crowd. Many bodies were burned beyond recognition.

Rescuers said someone may have accidentally dropped a cigarette, although there was also suspicion someone angered at being blocked by police may have started the fire on purpose.


Hassan said medical facilities in the area were overwhelmed.

"Some people have to sleep on the floor, despite their serious injuries. But we are going to airlift the most critical to Nairobi to decongest the hospitals."

"Oh God, Oh God," one man moaned as he lay on the floor of another rural hospital, his arm burned pink.

Anxious relatives milled around hospitals and the scorched area of the crash site, hoping to find their kin.

"My two sons ran home, picked some jerry cans and ran to get some petrol. I tried to stop them but they did not listen, they told me everyone is going there for the free fuel," said one distraught woman, who would not give her name.

"Now I cannot trace them," she said, sobbing as she looked at the skull and bones of a corpse near the shell of the truck.

Government ministers prayed with victims in hospital.

"This is a national tragedy, and the government will foot all the bills," said Public Health Minister Beth Mugo.

Another woman said she had last seen her 13-year-old son next to the truck, jerry can in hand, before the inferno.

"Then there was a huge explosion and we ran into the forest and that is the last time I saw him," she said, wiping tears.

A 14-year-old boy was found in a thicket, his face swollen and blistered, dazed and unable to speak. About 30 victims were airlifted in military planes for treatment in the capital.

The truck fire followed the deaths of at least 25 people in Nairobi when a supermarket caught fire earlier this week.

Local media have been berating the government for poor safety standards and inadequate disaster preparedness. Kenya has a poor road safety record, with major accidents and multiple deaths common on its main thoroughfares. (Additional reporting by Wangui Kanina and Duncan Miriri; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Elizabeth Piper)