Uganda: Police, UPDF Race Against Time to Rescue Survivors After Jinja Building Collapses

An excavator digs through debris in search for survivors in the building that collapsed in Jinja Town on January 15, 2020.
16 January 2020

Two bodies have so far been recovered from the rubbles of a building that collapsed yesterday in Jinja District in eastern Uganda.

However, Kiira Region Police Spokesperson, Ms Diana Nandawula said on Thursday that rescue efforts by Fire and rescue services officers are underway to find survivors.

She said it was still early to establish the total number of victims from the accident that happened when the building caved in at around 5pm while workers were doing finishing and others were undertaking electricity installations.

Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers were also seen at the scene helping in the rescue efforts.

"We have so far recovered two bodies and eight injured victims who are currently admitted to Jinja regional referral hospital. We rescued four others unhurt," Ms Nandawula said on Thursday.

The bodies of the deceased who are yet to be identified were taken to Jinja referral hospital for autopsy.

After the collapse which started with a loud bang, an equivalent of an explosion yesterday, distress voices would be heard as trapped employees cried out for help.

Rescue workers were by Thursday morning working against the clock with the hope of finding some of the stuck employees alive.

The Kiira regional police commander, Mr Onesmus Mwesigwa, also said they were doing all within their means to rescue the trapped people.

"We shall give a detailed report after ascertaining how many people have been retrieved from the debris. For now, we don't know," he said.

The Resident District Commissioner, Mr Eric Sakwa, said the building had 37 workers.

"We expect more bodies because the debris is heavy and we need more equipment to lift it," he said.

Mr Ali Waida, a witness, said some workers sustained injuries and were taken to hospital.

Mr Simon Kasirye, a resident, attributed the collapse of the building to poor workmanship.

"They used little cement and substandard iron bars of 12 millimetres instead of 16 millimetres. The concrete was also weak," he said.

Mr Benard Muwaya, a survivor, said construction of the building commenced in January 2018 and had reached the finishing stage.

The Jinja Municipality speaker, Mr Moses Bizitu, said the building was constructed without supervision from the municipal council engineer.

"There was less supervision, less cement, poor workmanship and police delayed to rescue the situation. People are using hoes and axes to retrieve the dead and survivors," he said.

The Uganda Red Cross manager Jinja Branch, Mr William Male Kayiwa, said: "We are uncertain about the number of people trapped in the building but we heard some crying."

The collapsed building that is located on Plot 71, Gokhale Road, belongs to Mr Abudul Samali, a businessman of Somali origin.

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