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How Huruma rescue mission is being carried out

 National Youth Service and Red Cross officers try to find survivors of collapsed building at Huruma. [Photo:WILLIS AWANDU/Standard]

The rescue team at the Huruma tragedy site is optimistic of finding more people alive, though time is running out.

The rescue process was ‘slow but sure’, said Mr Pius Masai, the National Disaster Management Unit boss, adding that the joint team comprising the military, the National Police and the National Youth Service would work to conclude the process which was constrained by space.

Yesterday marked the fourth day since the house collapsed. Tentatively, it takes 20 minutes to dredge a small piece of slab before the excavator picks it up. The team first uses a sniffer dog then edges out piece by piece, removing house items.

Only one excavator was on sight yesterday.

Masai said the scene of the disaster was narrow, thus could not accommodate more heavy machines.

“What is happening is that we are using sniffer dogs to detect whether there is life before we start excavating. The place is narrow, thus cannot accommodate more machines. We have enough manpower and are systematically working from one end to the other,” said Masai.

“We are working but it’s slow. We are working...clearing one row after another, but cannot tell exactly how many floors we have done,” said Masai owing to the laborious nature of the job.

The house is adjacent to a river, shielded on one side by a wall. On its upper side, there is a similar house with six floors, thus the rubble can only be cleared from one side.


After the sniffer dog has done its work, a rescuer then uses an electric drill to create a path for the cutter. After the iron bars are cut, the excavator lifts the slab for removal from the site.

NYS workers then use shovels to remove the remaining small pieces and pick up items found at the site, which range from bags, broken beds and seats.

The Standard counted four untouched floors by yesterday evening.

A source at the site said the police was spearheading the exercise. “This is a civilian issue, thus the military cannot take up command. They came to assist just like the NYS,” he said.

The houses near the rubble have one common factor: Though also built up to six floors up, their entries cannot allow two adults to enter at the same time.

The doors and the corridors are narrow, tentatively a foot wide. Some even have to be lit up as there is no natural light. Also, others have no supporting pillars and have moulds, indicators of a looming disaster.

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