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Government on the spot as disasters now claim dozens

By Moses Michira | Dec 9th 2019 | 3 min read

Rescue operation underway in Nairobi's Tassia following collapse of a seven-storey building on Friday. [David Njaaga, Standard]

It has been three days since the tragic events on Friday morning where a residential building sank in Nairobi, burying dozens of its occupants.

The rescue operation is still ongoing albeit at a snail’s pace, with reports that seven people have been confirmed dead.

Yesterday, Embakasi Deputy County Commissioner James Wanyoike said at least 35 trapped occupants had been rescued and five bodies retrieved from the top five floors. Two of those rescued have since died at the Mama Lucy Hospital.

Mr Wanyoike said the rescue operation would be complete in another day or two.

It is anticipated that the sinking of the block of flats will trigger another round of audits to mark unsafe buildings for possible demolition.

Cabinet Secretaries responsible for the various dockets under which fall a number of tragedies that have occurred in the past two weeks are yet to speak to at least ease the pain shared by many Kenyans.

Yesterday, Mr Wanyoike was the senior-most official at the scene of the Tassia incident. He blamed the heavy rains for the slow pace of recovery.

Stephen Mutoro, the secretary general of the Consumers Federation of Kenya, said it was obvious the government was not doing much to protect the weak.

“Of course not,” was his crisp response when The Standard reached out to him on government’s response to the crises.

At least 80 people have died in the past month in various episodes.

In the past, the public has seen half-hearted efforts to bring down risky properties following an assessment that found more than 4,000 buildings to be unfit or were erected on riparian reserves. Only a handful were demolished.

Just hours after the Tassia tragedy, travellers were caught up in a huge traffic snarl-up around Gilgil in Nakuru. Many, including children, spent up to 15 hours in the gridlock on this stretch of road that is becoming routine.

Two days ago, at least seven anti-stock theft officers and two civilians were killed in an attack on a bus by Al Shabaab militants in Mandera. The victims were waylaid while travelling from Nairobi on Friday evening.

Apart from flying their bodies to Nairobi, there has been no word on the incident from the government.

In West Pokot County, dozens have been killed by flooding and landslides in the last two weeks. Some 16 bodies have not been found to date.

Governor John Lonyangapuo has expressed his frustration at the national government for being too slow in providing help to victims.

“The army should help set up temporary bridges, but now it is two weeks and they have not helped,” the governor said last week.

Military personnel were deployed to repair the badly damaged road and bridge infrastructure besides helping the devastated survivors.

Prof Lonyangapuo added that sniffer dogs would be required in retrieving the bodies that are still missing.

Cyrus Oguna, the government spokesman, yesterday told The Standard the State had done everything in its power to address the unfortunate events, and that cabinet secretaries did not have to respond in person.

“Government is everybody and I assure you that a regional commander is not a junior officer,” said Col (rtd) Oguna.

On the collapsed building and why the demolition exercise on substandard houses of last year was called off, he said there was need to suspend the work pending consultations in balancing between housing shortage and review on alternative interventions.

“Let us not be too hard on government because it is really working hard around the length and breadth of the country to ensure security and safety of the people,” said Oguna.

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