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Man yet to get over Huruma tragedy three months later

Moses Mwangeso in his new house in Huruma holding a photo of his late wife Susan Anyango. Mwangeso is yet to get over Huruma tragedy, three months later. (PHOTO: WILBERFORCE OKWIRI/ COURTESY)

Moses Mwangeso, 43, has not forgotten the incident that saw him lose his wife and all his household property.

His wife Susan Anyago Awiti died on April 29 when a seven-storey building collapsed in Huruma, Nairobi County. The death toll from the tragedy was 52.

As Mwangeso makes himself at home on the uncomfortable bench in his new house in Huruma, he has very few words to explain his state.

“It may be over three months later, but I have not yet recovered,” he says.

His one-room house is in a more filthy environment than the modest flat he was staying in before. Lights have to be on 24/7 as it is poorly ventilated. Though not a flat, it is squeezed between buildings (with tiny corridors) and from a stream of dirty running water comes a not-so-pleasant smell.

Before he ushered us in, he had to clear away human faeces at his doorstep.

Share washrooms

“You know I am still looking for a house but that requires at least Sh15,000. But I do not think I can move out of Huruma,” said Mwangeso, who works as a carpenter and pays Sh3,000 as rent. He is not guaranteed of water and has to share washrooms with eight other tenants, some with families.

From owning electronics and all the basic furniture, Mwangeso’s new abode now has two 20-litre jerrycans, a few utensils, a blue painted table, two benches (which act as couches) and a radio. He sleeps on the floor with a photo of his beloved wife by his bedside.

“Yes, we were given money (about Sh150,000) to start afresh but you understand issues with funerals. I badly need to get back on my feet,” he said.

Though Mwangeso has two wives, he cannot forget the good and hard times he shared with his beloved Anyango, with whom they had a 10-year-old boy who is now in Standard Four.

“We were blessed with just one child but she had eight stillbirths because of her high blood pressure condition,” said Mwangeso.

On that fateful day, he had just stepped out to look for a new place after observing cracks on the flat: “We had supper ready on the table.”

But no sooner had he stepped out than he heard the thundering sound of the building coming down.

“My wife died with a neighbour’s child in her hands. My son was at my brother’s house. At her death, my wife was actually bedridden with malaria,” he said.

It took the Kenya Defence Forces and National Youth Service 11 days, under the direction of Pius Masai from the National Disaster Management Unit, to complete the rescue exercise that saw 140 persons rescued alive from the debris.

It is this incident that saw both the county and national government step in to enforce sanity in the construction sector on premise that 60 per cent of Nairobi buildings were actually unsafe.

In Huruma, 58 buildings had been marked for demolition from 3,000 buildings but logistics and court orders delayed the exercise that is slowly fading away from the limelight.

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