NAIROBI (Reuters) – A Kenyan student died and more than 100 others were injured as they fled after a electricity transformer explosion before dawn on Sunday triggered fears that their campus was being attacked, officials said.
Students jumped from windows at their University of Nairobi residence halls in a stampede that underlined growing tensions just over a week after gunmen stormed another university campus.
The dead student was among others who jumped from residence halls as high as five floors up, fearing the University of Nairobi’s Kikuyu campus had come under attack, university vice chancellor Peter Mbithi told Reuters.
Gunmen from the al Qaeda-aligned group al Shabaab stormed Garissa University College, about 200 km (120 miles) from the Somali border, killing 148 people on April 2.
“We have lost one male student who fell from fifth floor,” Mbithi said outside the emergency section of the country’s main public hospital, Kenyatta National.
Witnesses said the transformer blew up at about 4.30 am (0130 GMT), setting off terrified screams from the women’s wing of a dormitory. The panic spread to the men’s wing, where students woke up and scrambled to get out.
Students said the incident evoked memories of the attack in Garissa, which also came before dawn. “We thought it was another al Shabaab attack,” said Eddy Capella, a first-year student.
They said the transformer went out in three loud blasts, plunging the dormitory into darkness, which heightened the panic among the students.
“I could see the students jumping and one of them landed on his head,” said third-year student Felix Muriuki, referring to the student who died.
The tragedy befell Kenya while it was still grieving over the students killed in Garissa, with funerals taking place around the country.
Al Shabaab has killed more than 400 people on Kenyan soil in the last two years, including 67 during a siege at Nairobi’s Westgate mall in 2013, damaging tourism and inward investment.
Kenya responded to the latest attack with airstrikes on al Shabaab targets in Somalia and closure of informal financial firms suspected of involvement in the funding of the militants.
It has also said the U.N. refugee agency should relocate hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees sheltering in the Dadaab camp in the remote northeastern region.
Students from the Kikuyu campus called on the government to also do more to secure all universities.
“I’m not feeling 100 percent safe on campus but I will continue with my studies,” Muriuki said.
© Thomson Reuters 2015 All rights reserved