Seven people were killed and scores are missing after a five-storey building under construction collapsed in Kisumu on Wednesday.
Many others, mainly passers-by, were injured and rushed to different hospitals following the 5.30pm tragedy on Kenyatta Street.
A cloud of gloom enveloped the lakeside town which was in the grip of political fever as aspirants for various positions campaigned for Thursday’s nominations.
It was not immediately clear what caused the building to collapse, but initial reports pointed at poor workmanship and sub-standard building materials.
Town engineer Adrian Ouma declined to comment on the issue, saying that he was busy helping with search and rescue operations.
However, town clerk Christopher Rusana said the building was approved way back in 2011 and that construction had been ongoing.
“This is a very unfortunate situation. It occurred after we had closed the offices so I have not been able to look at its documentation. All I know is that it was approved in 2011,” Mr Rusana said.
Ms Lillian Wanjala, a survivor, said she was one of the women who were curing (pouring water on...) the building when the incident occurred.
“We had finished the day’s work and were to meet our supervisors to give us our pay. I was standing by the door when I felt the building shaking and before I could do anything, one side of my body had been buried in blocks,” she said. She sustained head, leg and chest injuries.
Mr Collins Odhiambo said he was among 26 construction workers and that people were also walking past the building to catch buses after work.
Beehive of activity
Nyanza Provincial Hospital and the Kisumu District Hospital were a beehive of activity as some of the casualties were attended to.
Mr Fred Madanji said he was about to walk past the building when it came down. “There was a hawker who was rushing behind me, I slowed down to give way. I saw the debris bury her. It was a shocking sight,” he said.
Regular police officers and GSU personnel were deployed to keep crowds milling around the scene at bay.
Rescue efforts were delayed as the public objected to the removal of the debris by an earth mover arguing that it would hamper the chances of rescuing some people.
From under the rubble, a woman was still crying for help two hours after the incident. As dusk set in, however, her voice grew faint and finally went silent.
About 20 people were feared to be trapped in the building.
Mr Victor Otieno, another passer-by, was injured in the legs.
Nyanza provincial commissioner Francis Mutie said police had launched a manhunt for the owner of the building, Anvi Emporium, the architect and foreman who oversaw its construction.
“There are new laws which are very tough on people who cause deaths by putting up shoddy buildings and should we discover that it was due to poor workmanship then those involved will have to face the full force of the law”, said the PC.
Reports by Liilian Ochieng’, Daniel Otieno, Moses Ogada and Brian Yonga