At least seven pupils have died after a classroom collapsed on them at a private school in the capital Nairobi on Monday.
The learners aged between eight and 15 years met their deaths at Precious Talent Academy on Ngong Road as they undertook morning preps.
Several others were injured in the tragedy that cast a spotlight on structures in private schools and safety of pupils in Kenyan schools.
Some 59 pupils were rushed to the Kenyatta National Hospital for treatment while the dead were taken to the City Mortuary.
KNH communication manager Hezekiel Gikambi said most of the pupils sustained soft tissue injuries.
He added, however, that majority of the pupils are in stable condition.
“Only two are in serious conditions, a boy and a girl. We have done MRI and CT scans and so far so well,” acting KNH chief executive Evanson Kamuri said.
He said most of the pupils will be discharged after receiving treatment.
Witnesses told Nation that the two-storey building in Ng’ando area caved in and came down a few minutes to 7am.
The classes that collapsed were housing the junior primary pupils but the most affected are those in Standard Six, Seven and Eight on the ground floor, who were trapped in the rubble.
TV footage showed rescue teams from Kenya Red Cross, St John’s Ambulance, school workers, residents and other Good Samaritans combing through the debris and lifting blocks as they battled to save the trapped children.
Some of the rescuers used rudimentary tools, including sticks, to dig up the rubble as many distraught parents watched in despair.
By 8am, there were no fire engines on site and many used bare hands to save lives, bringing into question the city county’s disaster preparedness.
The school managers could not estimate the number of pupils who were in class when the building came tumbling down at 6.50am.
Some parents and school neighbours said they had raised concerns over the safety and stability of the building.
The floors of the classrooms were made of wood and on it slab held together by wire mesh and many claimed the structure was a product of poor engineering and workmanship.
Mr Brian Ajega, a Ng’ando resident who helped with the rescue, said the ground floor of the building was wooden while the upper floors were made of concrete.
He said the building collapsed a few minutes to 7am but help came almost an hour later.
More lives, Mr Ajega said, could have been saved had the emergency teams arrived to the scene in good time.
The school owner Mr Moses Wainaina termed the collapse as “accident”, which he blamed on Nairobi City County.
According to Mr Wainaina, Governor Mike Sonko's administration recently dug a sewer line behind the classrooms, weakening the building’s foundation.
“They had good intentions to help this school but an accident has happened,” he said as he battled to calm irate parents.
He said they had more than 800 pupils learning at the station in area said to lack public schools.
Dagoretti South MP John Kiarie blamed the disaster on the national and county governments, saying they had left the people of Ng’ando to their devices.
The area with a slum, he said has no public social amenity, creating room for private investors to make money at all costs.
Basic Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang was among the first senior government officials to arrive at the scene of desperation.
Dr Kipsang refused to address the media, saying investigations were underway and a report would be given later.
The Kenya Red Cross has set up an information centre and is also providing psychosocial support services.
The numbers are +254 715 820 219 and hotline 1199.
- Reporting by Harry Misiko, Amina Wako, James Kahongeh, Nasibo Kabale and Verah Okeyo.