Four dead and scores trapped in ill-fated building

Witnesses said the building suddenly came tumbling down at 8am yesterday, after a night of incessant rains.

Four people died and scores are still trapped inside a six-storied building that collapsed in Tassia, Embakasi East yesterday. 

And voices of those still trapped, crying for help, could be heard even as rescuers struggled to drill through the debris. Those rescued came out caked in dust, with some mumbling a prayer thanking God for saving their lives. Others were too dazed to talk. Four people were confirmed dead, with rescue operations ongoing throughout the day with fears that scores of people were still unaccounted for.

Paramedics milled around, wheeling those who had been rescued into waiting ambulances. Mothers hastily returned home on getting calls about the incident and those who found their children playing outside, clung on them. Some were not as lucky. They paced impatiently, hoping the rescue mission would get to their trapped children still inside the collapsed building. Tears flowed as the residents recounted their fears about missing family members.

Bilatospy Wanjiku said her husband could be trapped in the collapsed building. She had left him in the house when she went to work in the morning. On hearing about the collapse, she immediately called him, but his phone went unanswered. Hours later, she had not heard from him.

Warning signs

“I am hopeful that he will be found. He may have gone for a walk and he will be back. I am still hopeful,” she said.

Witnesses said the building suddenly came tumbling down at 8am yesterday, after a night of incessant rains.

Jonathan Mwangangi, a resident, said he noticed cracks in the building on Thursday evening. Others said they had started seeing cracks on the building on the onset of the heavy rains.

Area MCA Micheal Oganda said the tenants of that building had been given a notice to vacate.

But Wanjiku refuted the claims, saying they had not received any notice to vacate nor had it been marked for demolition.

“The house was beautiful on the outside and always on demand, many people would ask if they had a vacant house,” she said.

Boniface Mutua, who had stayed in the building for six years, echoed Wanjiku’s sentiments saying they had not been given notice to vacate. He said he was lucky his family had travelled up country for the Christmas festivities.

The building that housed 57 units had shops operating on the ground floor with most witnesses saying people operating the shops were preparing to open for work when the incident occurred.

The building sits on a riparian land close to the Nairobi River with most of the waste water passing near it.

Tassia estate where the building collapsed has poor road network with most rescue teams having a hard time to access the area.

Area Member of Parliament Babu Owino who arrived at the scene in the morning, blamed the county government of Nairobi for approving buildings that had not met prerequisite standards.

“The relevant authorities need to take charge and do away with the corruption that is promoting underhand deals in building of such structures,” said Owino.

According to Nairobi Regional Commissioner Wilson Njega, by 3pm yesterday a total of eight people had been rescued while four had been confirmed dead.

“The rescue efforts are still ongoing, we urge people to be patient as we do our best,” he said.

Rescue mission

Njega said the police were first to arrive at the scene followed by the Kenya Defence Forces Disaster Management Unit that was co-coordinating the rescue efforts.

The rescue efforts involved a multi-agency team involving the Kenya Red Cross, National Construction Authority and the Nairobi County Government. “At the moment we cannot ascertain the number of people that are trapped but we shall ensure the continuity of the exercise to the end,” he said.

Maj Gen (Rtd) Dr Gordon Odemo Kihalangwa, Principal Secretary State Department for Public Works was also at the scene to ensure the rescue teams had the necessary equipment.