3 June 2018

Kenya: 2 Dead, 3 Hospitalised After Building Collapses in Huruma

When a five-storey building tumbled in the early hours of Sunday morning, it was a familiar disaster that is now associated with Huruma estate, Nairobi.

The building in Kingston area collapsed around 2am and by 10am yesterday, three people had been confirmed dead and three hospitalised in critical condition.

Among those who died was an expectant woman. The second person died while being taken to hospital.

The body of the third victim, a man, was retrieved from the rubble hours later. Rescuers had to untangle it from a mosquito net and bed. One person fled from the building when it started collapsing.

Seven people were killed when a six-storey building collapsed in Huruma in April 2016.

A little over a month later, another building tumbled in the same estate, claiming more than 50 lives.

As expected, government functionaries swung into action, and talked tough, vowing to crack the whip on owners of such apartment buildings.

This energy will, however, fizzle out as soon as the tragedy is forgotten.

According to national and county government officials, the building was among several unsafe ones in Kingston area that were targeted for demolition in 2017.

Mathare Deputy County Commissioner Patrick Mwangi said those who died or got injured in the tragedy were in the building illegally.

“When the building was condemned by the National Construction Authority, tenants were ordered to leave but some sneaked back later,” the administrator told journalists.

He and NCA officials could not, however, explain why the building had not been brought down.

Many multi-storey buildings in the populous estate are death traps, with a majority having huge cracks on their walls.

In December, the building inspectorate department of the county government said more than 600 houses in Nairobi were not safe, many being in Huruma estate.

In 2016, the county government took an audit of buildings in Huruma.

According to City County Lands and Housing executive Charles Kerich, only nine buildings were brought down because “other emergencies arose elsewhere”.

“When buildings are marked ‘X’, it does not automatically mean that they should be demolished. Adjustments can be made to make some of them safe. Experts can then advise on what to do,” Mr Kerich said.

“If it is beyond salvage, the building must be brought down.”

Rescue operations were hampered for hours as the collapsed building was sandwiched between several other illegal structures.

Rescuers had to pull down some in order to reach the area.

More than six hours after the tragedy, Kenya Power had not disconnected electricity to the building and adjacent ones.

National Disaster Management Unit deputy director Pius Masai said 12 families were still using the building.

Only one household had been accounted for, even as rescue operations that took more than 10 hours came to a close yesterday evening.

“Once you are told to vacate a building, leave while it is still safe. The government will provide transport and the necessary support to tenants who vacate buildings that are being assessed,” Mr Masai, who led the operations, said at the scene of the tragedy.

But even as NCA officers started inspecting buildings in Huruma and ejecting tenants, it remains to be seen what action the government will take against owners of structurally unsound houses in Nairobi.

Additional reporting by James Kahongeh


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