At least two people were killed and several others injured on Sunday evening when a seven-storey residential building collapsed in Nairobi’s Huruma estate.
One person died on arrival at Kenyatta National Hospital while a child’s body was retrieved from the rubble, an official from the Kenya National Disaster Operation Centre said.
A rescuer identified as Mary Wangechi said they had managed to pull out three people — one woman and two children — from the rubble during the overnight rescue operation.
The woman was alive but unconscious when she was rescued at around 3.30am, while the girl, aged about four years, was also rescued alive.
“At around 3.30am, we rescued a four-year-old girl from the rubble. We also pulled out a woman who was unconscious but alive.
“Unfortunately, the third person, an infant, was already dead by the time we managed to reach her,’ Ms Wangechi told the Nation.
She expressed fears that more people could still be trapped in the rubble of the building, which collapsed at 8.50pm Sunday night.
“The screams have since faded, so we do no not know whether those trapped under the rubble are still alive or dead,” she stated.
She recounted how occupants of the residential block scrambled out of their houses when they were alerted by residents in adjacent blocks that the building was collapsing.
“It is neighbors who started shouting that the building was collapsing. That was when most occupants fled to safety, otherwise we could have witnessed more deaths,” she stated.
The owner of the building, which is said to have partially collapsed last year but was later repaired, was still at large.
City officials said 22 survivors had been pulled out of the rubble but said it was unclear how many others were still trapped.
The collapse of the building sparked a major rescue operation involving scores of police officers, city officials and medical workers, an AFP photographer at the scene said.
Medical workers said more than 20 people had been admitted to local hospitals.
The Kenya Red Cross indicated that 14 casualties had been taken to Kenyatta National Hospital. Three of them were treated and discharged.
Rescuers had a hard time trying to access the collapsed building because of a big crowd that had gathered at the scene.
SIX FLOORS OCCUPIED
Speaking to a local radio station, Nairobi County official Tom Odongo said six floors of the building were all occupied and a seventh was under construction.
He also said the upper floors were built in quick succession, putting pressure on the lower floors, and added that the construction had not been permitted by local authorities.
“The fault lies with the developer, not the county government, because responsibility starts with the individual,” Mr Odongo insisted.
Large numbers of residents also swarmed the site, volunteering to dig through the rubble with their bare hands, although crowds were pushed away by police as heavy lifting machinery and official rescue teams were brought in.
“I’d gone out to watch the Arsenal (football) game when the building collapsed,” said Eric Ochieng, a witness and resident of the building.
“I rushed back for my wife and son, and I also pulled out two people and a child in the process.”
The collapsed building borders a primary school on one side and a maze of similar, densely populated houses on the other.
The latest tragedy comes barely a month after another residential complex collapsed in Nairobi’s Kaloleni estate, killing eight people and injuring several others.