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Collapsed Makongeni building had cracks, tenants say

The landlord of the collapsed building in Makongeni estate is said to have downplayed glaring defects by plastering over cracks whenever tenants reported them.

Tenants said the collapsed building had visible defects but they were assured it was structurally sound until it collapsed at 3am early yesterday, killing one and leaving scores wounded and others trapped under the rubble.

Gilbert Njoroge, a bodaboda operator who lived on the ground floor of the building, said doors used to jam.

More than 30 households are believed to have been living in the ground, first and second floors of the building. The fourth and fifth floors were under construction.

LAND BROKER

The owner of the building, only identified as a Mr Mwangi, is said to be a land broker in the area.

“He has since gone into hiding and his phone is also off,” said area MCA Peter Imwatok.

Mr Njoroge said that he was asleep when he was woken by cracking sounds that went on for several minutes before his roof collapsed.

“I ran outside and started banging on people’s doors and windows telling them to get out. A few people did come out but some did not make it,” he said.

About 15 people were said to be still trapped in the rubble. Two were rescued by 4pm as the operation looked set to proceed into the night.

The rescue operation conducted by Army, National Youth Service and Nairobi County personnel, among others, was slow as rescuers could only use hand tools with the heavy machinery lying idle.

“It’s a delicate balance but the basic goal is to make sure that those who are alive in there are brought out alive,” said Nairobi planning executive Tom Odongo.

SAFETY STATUS

Details of whether the structure had been approved by the county’s planning department were not available.

The collapse, however, shifts the focus on the county as the physical development regulator and the National Construction Authority on the safety status of the thousands of buildings in the city.

A recent report by Questworks, a design and engineering firm, said that at least three out of four buildings in Nairobi would be seriously damaged in the event of a major earthquake.

It said that contractors who steal cement and use less steel are to blame for most of the weaknesses.

The county government, however, dismissed the report saying that it was never consulted as the authority in charge.