At least 40 families have been ordered to evacuate after a construction site next door collapsed.
The tenants at Grafion Apartments in Ruaka, Kiambu County, woke up to find a perimeter wall separating them from a neighbouring construction site and part of their car park gone.
Several cars were damaged and the pillars supporting the apartment block left standing dangerously close to the caved in construction site, prompting the order to vacate.
“We are now deliberating on the measures to take to secure the building so it does not collapse,” said Peter Gicheha, the Deputy County Commissioner in charge of Kiambaa sub-county.
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The county has since disowned the construction.
“The contractor was in the process of getting approval, but the county was yet to provide the final permit,” said Patrick Karanja, a sub-county administrator of Kiambu County.
According to Angela Mwaniki, one of the tenants, the construction site caved in at around 2.30am on Wednesday.
“We heard a bang. When we came out to check, there was no wall. Part of the parking lot was gone too. One of the cars parked on it had tipped over while others were nearly tipping over,” she said.
Tenants at the apartments said the collapse was imminent as soon a contractor moved in to construct another apartment block next door and began excavating right next to the apartment block.
Worried residents piled pressure on their landlord to push the contractor to reinforce the perimeter wall next to the construction. This, they said, did not happen.
“The reinforcement wall was long overdue. It should have been built before the rains,” said Ms Mwaniki.
The construction site was yesterday shut down as the contractor moved to secure an apartment block next to it.
“The contractor has taken responsibility. We have suspended further construction until investigations are complete,” said Mr Gicheha.
The contractor of the site, the affected building’s landlord and Government officials met yesterday to decide the next course of action.
According to Moses Nyakiongora, the chairman of the National Building Inspectorate, the the contractor might have bypassed several important requirements that threatened the foundations of adjacent apartments.
“In excavation nothing is supposed to fall. Even when a small thing falls, that is a sign of danger,” he said.
However, Mr Nyakiongora said the collapse of the building’s perimeter wall and parking lot might have been compounded by the nature of soils in Ruaka, which he said are largely water-logged.
“Ruaka is an area of interest as it has many issues. It lacks a sewerage system, which means there are many septic tanks. There are also a lot of boreholes, which leads to the accumulation of underground land unstable,” he said.
He said the evacuated apartment appeared strong and constructed according to standards, and that the collapse may have been caused by negligent excavation.
By yesterday, many of the tenants had started making alternative arrangements for accommodation.
Construction officials promised to ensure the contractor pays the costs of the tenants’ relocation.