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Job fears as fire guts factory

WORK LIFE
By Mercy Kahenda | January 22nd 2020
An employee pours water to put out embers at the Lomolo Sisal Factory in Rongai Sub-county yesterday. [Harun Wathari, Standard]

Property worth more than Sh150 million was destroyed after a fire gutted Lomolo Sisal Estate factory in Rongai Sub-county yesterday.

The factory management suspect arsonists targeted 400 tonnes of sisal bales that were ready for export to the Middle East and North Africa. 

According to acting manager Jonathan Kemboi, a lorry, tipper and grinding machines were also burnt.

Rongai Sub-county Police Commander Richard Rotich said the cause of the fire was yet to be established but he could not rule out an arson attack.

“Various employees at the factory are under investigations as we try to establish the cause. We have called in fire experts to also probe the cause,” said Mr Rotich.

A large section of the factory’s employees have been rendered idle since most of the machinery was destroyed. One casual employee at the Greek-owned factory established in 1962 sustained burns while trying to put out the fire. He is admitted at Mogotio Hospital in Nakuru County.

Stephen Otieno, an employee, said workers on duty tried to put out the fire but the flames spread too fast. He is among staffers who spoke to The Standard and said they fear losing their jobs following the losses.

“It is worrying to have the factory burn at a time when the country is facing unemployment,” added Daniel Chacha, another employee.

The factory’s acting manager linked the suspected arson to labour wrangles, saying the factory recently laid off some employees.

Alternative machines

Five suspects, who include current and former employees, are under investigation. The incident was reported at the Menengai Police Station.

The Standard visited the factory and established that despite a section of the factory having been burnt, some work was still going on using alternative machines, with a number of employees cutting sisal in the fields.

“We have suffered a huge loss but work shall continue as we deliberate on the way forward for the company. Currently, we are using some older machines, but it will be difficult to pack the bales after some of the grinders burnt,” said Mr Kemboi.

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