Building disaster returns

The second wing of the ill-fated building, which claimed 14 lives last month in Nairobi, collapsed injuring five people

Disaster yesterday returned to the ill-fated Nairobi building which claimed 14 lives last month, when its second wing caved in, injuring five people. 

The second wing of the ill-fated building, which claimed 14 lives last month in Nairobi, collapsed injuring five people.Photo by Paul Waweru

The five, who included a couple and their daughter, escaped death by a whisker when the beams and columns of the six-storey condemned structure on Ronald Ngala street crushed onto their rental house on a neighbouring one-storey building. 

Mr and Mrs James Mwenda escaped with slight injuries but their daughter, Namu, and two other women, identified only as Moraa and Kerubu, complained of chest injuries and were taken to Kenyatta National Hospital, where they were treated and discharged. 

Mr Mwenda said: "We were in our house preparing to take breakfast when we heard a loud explosion.'' 

Later, government officials visited the scene of the January 23 accident where a pungent smell from the rubble in the cordoned off site reminded them of the unfinished business of removing trapped bodies. 

Police Commissioner Hussein Ali, Mayor Dick Wathika and Nairobi police boss King'ori Mwangi toured the area, separately, to survey the extent of the damage. 

Fourteen construction workers were killed when a wing of the building caved in at lunch time on January 23. More than 80 people injured. 

It took three days to rescue the survivors by a combined team of Kenyan military personnel and their counterparts from Israel, America and Britain, before they lost hope of getting any more survivors. 

President Kibaki cut short his official trip to Sudan following the tragedy. 

The second building, also owned by Mr Francis Kihonge, was supposed to be demolished the following week by Mugoya Construction Company at a cost of Sh32 million, after it was condemned by the Local Government ministry as being unfit for human habitation and a risk to other neighbours and the public. 

The case is still pending before court.

Meanwhile, Mayor Wathika directed Town Clerk John Gakuo to issue a notice to Mr Kihonge to start removing the debris from the site within 48 hours, so that the search for trapped bodies could resume. 

The second notice is to the landlords and tenants of the neighbouring building to move out within 48 hours on safety and health grounds, to allow an independent team to assess the state of the buildings. 

Court injunction 

Addressing a press conference at his parlour, the mayor said the court injunction barring them from demolishing the Kihonge buildings had been overtaken by events after the second structure collapsed on its own. 

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Architectural Association of Kenya, Mr Mohammed Munyanya, blamed the judiciary for the impasse, saying the rights of the public must come before those of an individual. 

"It is a sad thing that the recovery efforts were suspended because of a court ruling after the developer sought an injunction against the demolition. This puts the spotlight on the judiciary," Mr Munyanya said. 

He said that the position of his association was that the condemned buildings must be brought down because they were constructed unprofessionally and were a safety risk.