A workers’ union on Wednesday asked the police to resume rescue operations at a Mombasa warehouse where five loaders died after bags of rice fell on them. Read (Falling rice bags claim five lives)
The Kenya Shipping, Clearing and Warehouse Workers Union chairman Joseph Namai said a loader was still missing after the Monday tragedy in Shimanzi.
He identified the man as Mr John Murundo, who had reported to work in the morning.
“We visited the godown this morning and we have been waiting for the owner to open the facility in vain. We have reported the matter to Makupa Police Station, but we have not had any assistance,” said Mr Namai.
The godown was owned by Kenjaro Coffee, who have since suspended operations.
Mr Namai warned employees at warehouses in Mombasa were working under dangerous conditions, and demanded urgent measures to ensure their safety.
“Monday’s incident should be a wake-up call to the government to enforce safety measures,” said Mr Namai.
He asked the government to compensate families of the victims.
“It is a pity that the owner has only paid Sh20,000 for funeral arrangements to the five families which lost their loved ones,” said Mr Namai.
At the same time, families of the victims blamed the tragedy on laxity by labour officials.
“We are shocked the government does not inspect warehouses since they do not have emergency doors,” said Mr Matano Mjaka, who lost a relative.
Mr Moses Wafula, a loader, said one person was rescued when the warehouse manager opened the emergency exit three hours after the incident.
“If the emergency exit was opened on time the five loaders who died would have been rescued. That is why we are calling on the Safety and Health Department to inspect all godowns to avert such tragedies,” said Mr Wafula.
They also criticised the disaster response team for taking long to act and lacking appropriate equipment.
Police launched investigation into the tragedy on Tuesday, with the owner of the godown recording a statement.
“We have talked to the survivors and to the owner in trying to establish the cause of the accident ... we hope to come up with the conclusion very soon,” said Deputy Coast provincial police boss Robert Kitur.
Mr Justus Kilunda, a survivor, said there were about 40 loaders in Kenjaro Coffee Warehouse when the hundreds of bags of rice came tumbling down.
“We had just finished restocking when the bags started falling. A majority of those who were near the main door escaped unhurt, but those who were near the cargo were hit by the bags,” he said.