Four burnt to death in slum fire

A man at the ruins of a house in which three women and a child were burnt to death at Gatwikira in Kibera slum on February 26, 2015, morning. PHOTO | BILLY MUTAI |

What you need to know:

  • Another neigbour, Ms Irene Atieno, whose sister, Belinda Awuor, was burnt to death, said they destroyed a wall to try and rescue those trapped in the room. Ms Atieno said her sister managed to come out of the house but insisted on going back to collect her academic certificates.
  • “We had been together until 10.30 pm in my house when she retired for the night since she was preparing to wake up early in the morning to wash a neigbour’s clothes to earn some money,” she added.
  • A fire engine was unable to go past the Olympic Primary School’s gate in Kibera as there is no access road to the scene of the fire.
  • By the time the fire was put out using buckets of water three hours later, four bodies were found near the door. They included that of Margaret Nyakowa and her son, Elvis Ocholi, 8. Margaret had wrapped her arms around her son who was in Standard Two.

Three women and a child were burnt to death as they slept in a tiny room that had been locked from outside at Gatwikira in Kibera Slum.

Neigbours destroyed a mud wall of an adjacent house to gain entry into the house that caught fire around 1.20am. Six other people were injured in the blaze.

“I was outside my house getting ready to go to work when I saw the fire coming from a hotel which is in one corner of the building. I knew people were sleeping in the next house. I tried to open the door, but there was a padlock on it,” a neighbour Diana Achieng’ said.

She said she could hear screams from inside as she knocked at the adjacent landlady’s house.

“By the time the landlady woke up, the fire had spread rapidly and no one was bold enough to get close to the door,” Ms Achieng’ said.

ACADEMIC CERTIFICATES

Another neigbour, Ms Irene Atieno, whose sister, Belinda Awuor, was burnt to death, said they destroyed a wall to try and rescue those trapped in the room. Ms Atieno said her sister managed to come out of the house but insisted on going back to collect her academic certificates.

“She took a plastic basin and covered her head with it, then ran back into the house. By that time, that section of the building had not caught fire. We tried to stop her but she was determined to get her papers.

“As she was getting out of the house, the top floor of the mud house crumbled and fell on her,” Ms Atieno recounted.

“We had been together until 10.30 pm in my house when she retired for the night since she was preparing to wake up early in the morning to wash a neigbour’s clothes to earn some money,” she added.

Margaret Nyakowa, who died with her arms wrapped around her son, Elvis Ocholi.

A fire engine was unable to go past the Olympic Primary School’s gate in Kibera as there is no access road to the scene of the fire.
Kilimani police boss Peter Katam said officers and medics walked to the scene as the houses are too crowded.

By the time the fire was put out using buckets of water three hours later, four bodies were found near the door. They included that of Margaret Nyakowa and her son, Elvis Ocholi, 8. Margaret had wrapped her arms around her son who was in Standard Two.

Ms Nyakowa’s sister, Truphena Muranda, said Margaret had moved into the house recently but complained that it was too small.

“We were planning to look for another house today (Thursday). She had planned to bring her three other children from our rural home where they live with our parents” she said.

Although the cause of the fire is unknown, residents suspect an electricity fault. Survivors say there had been a blackout before they went to sleep.

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