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One by one, city’s death traps come tumbling down

By Graham Kajilwa | May 18th 2016

Demolition of unsafe buildings in Nairobi commenced yesterday.

This was after the lapse of a seven-day grace period issued earlier by Governor Evans Kidero.

The demolition started with a four-storey building that was reduced to  debris in Mathare North.

The National Disaster Management Unit (NDMU), National Youth Service (NYS), National Building Inspectorate (NBI), National Construction Authority (NCA) and the county government are spearheading the demolitions.

As usual, the residents were armed with saws and all manner of tools ready to salvage any valuables from the debris.

The exercise, that is out to cement who has authority between the rogue developers and the Government, will see to it that some 226 buildings are brought down.

“Out of the 228 marked buildings, 226 are suspect and there will be no negotiations in bringing them down once the scientific tests concur with our assessment,” said NCA Building Inspectorate Secretary Moses Nyakiogora.

Mr Nyakiogora said the demolition that has started in Mathare will spread further to Huruma where 58 buildings will be brought down.

Zimmerman and South B

According to an audit report from the county government, apart from the 58 Huruma buildings to be demolished where six are adjacent to the recently collapsed building, 28 structures in Zimmerman and 19 others in South B will not be spared.

“This exercise is meant to save lives. Take note that this is an ongoing demolition until we get rid of all unsafe buildings,” said Nairobi County Lands Executive Christopher Khaemba.

Even as the exercise was going on in Mathare North, in Huruma, inspectors from the county’s Building Inspectorate were busy assessing structures next to the collapsed building that claimed 51 lives with five still in hospital.

Some residents who thought they were safe found themselves stranded as the inspectors marked more buildings.

“Our building was marked yesterday (Tuesday). The inspectors argued that it was risky for it to be occupied when demolition of the adjacent seven storey begins,” said Benjamin Waithenji who a year ago was living in the collapsed building.

NBI Field Co-ordinator Peter Moturi, however, said that not all buildings with an ‘X’ would be demolished.

“There are others that will need to be reinforced or strengthened before a certificate of occupation is issued,” he said.

‘x’ mark

Usually, a simple ‘X’ means the building is non-compliant but not necessarily that tenants should move out. But an ‘X’ with a ‘vacate’ notice means the building has been found unsafe and with or without further scientific tests, tenants have to move out.

“To be safe once a building has an ‘X’, one should just move out,” said Mr Moturi.

A developer, Paul Kamau, had mounted a court order dated May 10 on some 18 buildings that bars NCA, the county government and the Attorney General from having any dealings whatsoever in the properties until an ongoing inspection audit is complete.

right to sue

“The developers and owners have the right to sue but if they breached the law, their buildings have to be demolished,” said Moturi.

Some of the aspects inspectors look out for Moturi said, are the height of building (where there are more than five floors there should be a fitted elevator), strength and size of stairs and corridors. In Huruma, some were as tiny as 450mm.

Others are social amenities. He noted that it was unhygienic to have up to nine families sharing one washroom.

“Any plot should be 50 per cent developed but Huruma is so densely congested that lighting, air or drainage becomes a problem,” he said.

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