A residential building collapsed in Huruma, Nairobi late Friday after a severe downpour and has killed at least 43 people – of whom vast majority are children – injuring dozens.
Rescuers, including Kenyan Red Cross rescue team, are leading efforts to find scores of people feared trapped and possibly dead. So far, 140 people have been rescued and rushed to the hospital while some residents were lucky enough to have escaped before the residential building collapsed.
However, others are feared trapped in the rubble of the building in Huruma and the aid organization said more than 70 people have been reported missing.
The Red Cross rescue team also said they pulled out three children, an adult, a mother and baby whose cries could be heard from the rubble of the six-story building, adding that 150 building units and adjacent homes were also affected.
As the rescue team worked selflessly to save lives, one man came out holding up a baby wrapped in a pink blanket as the crowd broke into cheers.
Another man followed suit, carrying a toddler also pulled from the debris. Both children were rushed to waiting ambulances. Rescuers who rushed to the scene, as the residential building collapsed, also heard the voices of trapped survivors calling out, afraid but alive. Workers heaved chunks of concrete from the scene, the cries spurring their efforts.
Nairobi’s Police Chief, Japheth Koome, who confirmed the death toll, said it took rescuers longer than it should to get to the scene due to hours-long traffic jams caused by flooded roads.
A man who claimed to be a resident of a building adjacent to the fallen building, said the building was constructed “shoddily.” The building had been constructed in less than five months and the 126 single rooms were quickly occupied at a rent of $35 a month, he added.
Area legislator Stephen Kariuki said this was the second building to collapse in a year. He blamed the county government of failing to demolish buildings that were identified as unfit for human occupation.
President Uhuru Kenyatta arrived at the scene of the incident on Saturday morning. In a statement, the president ordered officials to carry out urgent survey of all houses in the area to find out those at risk of falling. The president also demanded for the arrest of the owners of the residence. Kenya National Disaster Operation Centre director Colonel Nathan Kigotho, told reporters at the scene that:
“We are still hearing some voices from the collapsed building. We don’t have the exact number of people buried in the rubble.”
He added that the building in Nairobi’s poor suburb of Huruma in eastern Nairobi had 198 rooms. Kigotho said:
“The biggest cause of this was that the building was next to the river. The water most likely undermined the foundation.”
Interior Minister Joseph Ole Nkaissery told reporters at the scene that the cries of a woman and child had been heard but their fates are yet unknown. Speaking on the matter, Mike Sonko said the mega corruption at City Hall is to blame for the deaths at Huruma.
The Nairobi senator urged governor Evans Kidero to sack “corrupt and uncouth officers” who allowed the building to be put up. Earlier, the Nairobi deputy Governor Jonathan Mueke said the building was not approved since it was built very close to a river. In the past, heavy downpours have led to building collapses in sub-standard neighbhourhoods of the Kenyan capital, which locals have blamed on shoddy or illegal construction.
Though it is still unclear what made the building to fall during the storm, residents told the Red Cross that the bottom floors caved in first. The lower floors of the residential building collapsed and shattered while some upper part of the building remain almost intact. However, broken bed frames, mattresses and clothes poked out of the wreckage, posing more risk to the victims. Other domestic items lay scattered as residents prayed and wept, while some others carried debris using their bare hands.