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Six dead, 40 injured as building collapses in Kisii – PHOTOS

 

At least six people were killed and more than 40 injured when a 10-storey building that was under construction collapsed on Thursday in Kisii Town.

The building at Daraja Moja-Nyambera Road near Ram Hospital came tumbling down mid-morning, bringing the town to a standstill as residents rushed to the scene.

A huge crowd, most rushing to take pictures and videos using their mobile phones, milled around the building, hampering rescue efforts.

County ambulances rushed to the scene to pick the injured but most were ferried by boda bodas to the Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital before the ambulances arrived.

By the time of going to press, a search for more survivors was still going on although rains pounding the area threatened to hamper the combined efforts by the Red Cross, County Disaster Management Team and St Johns Ambulance.

 

PHOTO | JEREMIAH KIPLAGAT
PHOTO | JEREMIAH KIPLAGAT

Government Spokesperson Eric Kiraithe said that the government together with the county, the Kenya Police and Kenya Red Cross were conducting a search and rescue operation with extensive support from locals.

“We understand the deep concern of families and members of the public following this grievous event. We humbly ask that the public and media be patient with the difficult and ongoing rescue and recovery exercise. We will continue to issue progress updates.

An unknown number of construction workers is believed to be trapped inside the rubble as efforts to rescue them continue.

The St Johns Ambulance supplied oxygen to those trapped inside as county bulldozers carefully dug to find survivors.

 

PHOTO | JEREMIAH KIPLAGAT
PHOTO | JEREMIAH KIPLAGAT

 

The owner of the building, whose ground floor was partly occupied, is said to be based in Nairobi. Police were looking for him last evening.

Survivors on Thursday tearfully recounted their miraculous escape from the collapsed building.

Ms Irene Akinyi, who was among the construction workers, had stepped out to buy a soft drink when she heard blocks tumbling down.

“At first, I thought it was short circuiting, but when the concrete blocks and other materials began to tumble down, I ran for my life,” a visibly shaken Ms Akinyi told the Nation.

She said a number of people, including three children and her colleagues did not make it out of the building.

Mr Oliver Okudo, another construction worker, said he was shocked by a sudden tremor that sent him sprawling on the dust and rubble.

“I somehow found myself on top of the heap of sand and immediately sprinted to safety. When I was sure that the building was no longer crushing down, I went back to help with rescue efforts,” he said, estimating the number of workers on site before the collapse at around 60.

PHOTO | JEREMIAH KIPLAGAT
PHOTO | JEREMIAH KIPLAGAT

The ill-fated building was the second in less than six years to collapse on the same site regarded as a water-catchment area.

A worker, a Mr Otieno, told the Nation that together with his colleagues, he spotted a crack on the building awhile back, but did not think much of it.

“I was on the sixth floor with about 20 masons doing plastering when the building came down like a house of cards. When the dust cleared, I was lying on the ground, with stinging pain in the chest,” he said.

Mr Otieno was taken to Ram Hospital. Six children were also rescued from the site and taken to hospital.

 

The National Construction Authority was earlier preparing a preliminary report on the incident following reports that it had been marked for demolition.

South Nyanza Regional NCA Coordinator Lucas Adwera said the report would be made public once ready.

The NCA on Thursday evening confirmed that the construction of the building had been suspended twice over the last one year after it exceeded the number of floors it had been allowed.

NCA communication Officer Wangui Kabala said compliance officers found out in November last year that the owner had not complied with the three storeys he had been permitted.

“The Authority can confirm the collapsed structure was registered as a project. However, after our compliance officers discovered during the routine quality assurance exercises that the developer had exceeded the number of floors in the approved plans, the construction works on the site were immediately suspended. This was in November 2015,” the officer said in a statement.