Six-story building collapse kills 20, injures 135 in Kenya's capital

Published 30.04.2016 11:01
Updated 01.05.2016 20:49
A six-story residential building in a low income area of the Kenyan capital collapsed Friday under heavy rain and flooding. (AP Photo)
A six-story residential building in a low income area of the Kenyan capital collapsed Friday under heavy rain and flooding. (AP Photo)

Kenyan rescuers continued searching for survivors Sunday of a residential building in a low income area that collapsed Friday, as officials said the death toll has risen to 20 and 73 people remain missing.

Japheth Koome, the police chief for Nairobi, the capital, confirmed the death toll.

The 198-room building in Huruma in eastern Nairobi collapsed on Friday night after heavy rain and rescue work was continuing on Sunday.

"Search and rescue operations are ongoing to rescue survivors that may still be trapped under the rubble," the Kenya Red Cross said in a statement.

Neither the Kenya Red Cross nor the National Disaster Operation Centre - which is leading the rescue operation - could give an estimate of how many people may still be under the rubble.

Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery confirmed the deaths. The Kenya Red Cross said 150 building units and adjacent homes were affected while at least 135 people were injured.

Rescuers said Saturday that they could hear voices of five people trapped in the building and said it will be difficult to remove the concrete slabs using heavy machinery without endangering those stuck in the rubbled, said nominated legislator Johnson Sakaja.

Live TV footage showed the National Youth Service and firefighters removing stones by hand and a crowd cheering as a child was removed from the rubble. President Uhuru Kenyatta visited the scene.

Hours-long traffic jams caused by flooded roads delayed rescue teams trying to reach the scene, said Japheth Koome, Nairobi's police chief said.

Kenya is in the midst of its April-May rainy season.

Jacob Kiruma, who said he lived in the house adjacent to the one that collapsed, said the building was constructed "shoddily." The structure had been built in less than five months and the 126 single rooms were quickly occupied at a rent of $35 a month, Kiruma said.

Area legislator Stephen Kariuki said this was the second building to collapse in a year. He blamed the county government of failing to follow through with demolitions of buildings that were identified as unfit for human habitation.

Taking advantage of a high demand for housing in Nairobi, some property developers bypass building regulations to cut costs and maximize profits.

President Kenyatta last year ordered an audit of all the buildings in the country to see if they are up to code after eight buildings collapsed, killing at least 15 people. The report from the audit by the National Construction Authority found that 58 percent of buildings in the capital were unfit to live in. The majority of Nairobi's 4 million people live in low-income areas or slums.

The heavy rains have caused other fatalities. Four people died when a wall collapsed Friday in the affluent Hurlingham area and two people drowned when they were swept away by flood waters in the capital's industrial area, said Nairobi police chief Koome.

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