Why five storey apartment in Uthiru collapsed


Cordoned off Epsom View Apartment in Uthiru, Nairobi County that sank on May 07, 2024. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

For about three years, Epson View Apartments in Uthiru, Mountain View ward, Nairobi, hosted 34 tenants.

The once attractive five-storey building has now been reduced to rubble after it collapsed on Tuesday evening at around 8pm.

Notably, the columns could not sustain the weight from the upper floors that remain partially intact.

Tenants said that the building had developed cracks two days prior and the owner was undertaking repairs.

But on Tuesday evening at around 8pm, the building could not hold anymore leading to the collapse.

Residents told The Standard that the landlady had earlier informed the tenants that she had sought the services of an engineer to ascertain the safety of the building.

Shockingly, the engineer informed her that the building was safe and the cracks were as a result of the heavy rainfall that soaked the back filling soil.

"I am concerned for all of us and I would not wish for anything wrong with our building. Please don’t hesitate to call me if you have any concerns," reads part of the message the landlady shared in a WhatsApp group with the tenants.

At the scene was a team from Nairobi County Disaster Management led by Chief Officer Brawel Simiyu who said all the 34 tenants were safe.

"The agencies that are investigating shall take samples of the materials for due process to establish the cause of the building collapse," said Simiyu.

The National Construction Authority (NCA) noted that the building’s ground floor was used as parking and tenants occupied first floor upwards, meaning that the columns were standing pillars.

"What happened is that the columns between the ground floor where parking was to the first floor, are the ones which crashed and the building remains now sitting on the first floor,” NCA Executive Director Maurice Aketch said.

“Technically, structurally it is a collapsed building. What you are seeing is a mass of building standing but cannot be considered to be safe," he added.

Aketch said that the collapse may have been caused by any interference on the column.

“When we have such a structure where columns are standing so that it allows space for parking on the ground floor and space all over, any interference or movement of a column may cause instability," he explained.

He said the team from the NCA has picked some materials from the scene to commence investigations to ascertain what happened.

"From the visual observation you can see that the columns gave in, they crashed, then the first floor came sitting on the ground floor," he said.

"What could have caused the column to crash is now subject to investigations, whether it is the quality of materials, foundations settlements which are normally caused by weakened foundation especially given that we have had incidents of rains," he added.

Meanwhile, Nairobi County has halted the issuance of new architectural building approvals.

“We have also suspended undertaking of excavation at construction sites as this would compromise the structural integrity and safety of adjoining buildings due to the ongoing rains,” Governor Sakaja said.

“Consequently, the audit of all buildings constructed over the last two years to establish their compliance to status will commence,” he added.