3 June 2018

Kenya: Nairobi's Condemned Buildings Stand Tall as Collapse Claims 3 in Huruma

Nairobi — The five-storey building that collapsed in Nairobi's Huruma on Sunday morning resulting in three deaths was marked for demolition, it has emerged.

The building is among 711 structures earmarked for demolition which was set to commence in March 2017 but later suspended and moved to January 2018 under unclear circumstances.

According to an audit conducted by the Buildings Inspectorate at the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development in 2017, 388 houses were flagged as very dangerous while 323 were reported to be unsafe.

Majority of the condemned houses were said to have been built on riparian areas with the structural integrity of all of the inspected houses put to question.

A number of buildings have collapsed in Huruma's recent history with the most devastating being in April 2016 when more than forty people lost their lives.

National Disaster Management Unit (NDMU), Deputy Director Pius Masai told the press on Sunday that four people had been rescued alive as a multi-agency operation to find those trapped in debris continued.

He, however, ruled out the possibility of more deaths saying some twelve families had escaped from the building before it collapsed at about 1:30am on Sunday.

"We've accounted for people who evacuated and those are twelve families. There are families that also came looking for their loved ones but some have already traced them," he said.

"We cannot give any figure because we're still counting and reconciling reports we're getting," he added.

Masai said that authorities were seeking the owner of the five-storey building even as preliminary investigations revealed that the building collapsed due to structural weaknesses.

He urged residents in condemned buildings to evacuate saying the National Youth Service was prepared to offer transport services for those vacating their houses.

Speaking at the scene of the collapsed building, Mathare lawmaker Antony Oluoch called for stern action against owners of substandard buildings in the area top avert future incidences.

"The buck stops with our technical people at the county government. They really must help us to ensure that people do no build substandard structures, speeding up construction of buildings and then costing us lives," the legislator said.

According to Oluoch, the ill-fated building had already been earmarked for demolition with inhabitants told to evacuate after another building collapsed in the area recently.

"This is a building that had already been earmarked and a number of people had evacuated but those who were affected in this incidence were those who had nowhere to go so they sneaked back as they continued to look for where to go," the area lawmaker explained.

He urged government agencies to move with speed to demolish houses deemed unfit for habitation to forestall similar tragedies in future.

"A couple of years backed we had a collapsed building and some of the buildings in the area were earmarked for demolition. Some were demolished, others were not demolished and you will realize some building here are handing precariously," Oluoch noted.

Other than Huruma, Thika Road, Umoja, and Pipeline are other residential areas with a worrying number of unsafe buildings.

According to the audit conducted last year by the buildings inspectorate out of 358 houses inspected in Pipeline in Embakasi East, for instance, 65 were marked as very dangerous with 95 classified as unsafe.

118 houses in Umoja were marked unsafe with 28 others declared to be very dangerous.

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