Mothers and newborns were on Wednesday morning left in pain and stranded following a 2am fire at the maternity wing of Mbagathi Hospital in Nairobi.
The fire is suspected to have been caused by a power blackout that plunged the hospital into pitch darkness after one of the main switches was blown up.
The building that caught fire was constructed in 2014 and was last month condemned by city county engineers.
The engineers declared the block structurally unsound after hospital staff complained that cracks were all over.
According to witnesses, it was a busy night at the maternity wing as clients brought in mothers in labour when the flames broke out.
Kilimani police boss Michael Muchiri confirmed the incident, saying 16 newborns were in the incubator at the time.
“There was a power blackout in one of the sections… fortunately there were no fatalities,” he said.
Women in labour, mothers and their newborns were forced out of the building into the rainy darkness as hospital staff battled to put out the fire.
“The building has many cracks and has no fire extinguishers,” a nurse, who sought anonymity for fear of reprisals, told the Nation.
“We were forced to borrow lanterns and paraffin from the National Spinal Injury Hospital in Hurlingham.”
The nurse said hospital staff had constantly complained over the cracks in the nursery, fearing that the building may collapse on the newborns.
Immediately the fire broke, the source said, the maternity wing’s main power switch went off— sparking panic among mothers who had children at the incubators.
A mother of one of the affected newborns told the Nation that their babies stayed in the cold for more than six hours.
She claimed the temperature of her baby, who was in the incubator, had shot up, leaving her worried.
Eight of 16 newborns in the incubator were severely affected by the blackout and their mothers were forced to keep them warm the kangaroo way out.
They were later taken to Langata Hospital as the rest of the mothers and their babies were moved to Ward 4 of the same hospital.
When the Nation visited the hospital, county government officials, led by Health Executive Committee Member Hitam Majevda, were inspecting the damage caused by the fire.
The hospital’s Medical Superintendent Loice Mutai said the blackout was caused by an “electricity trip”.
Dr Mutai said the power hitch only affected the newborn unit.
The building has since been sealed off.
No injuries or fatalities have been reported but police raised concerns over the failure of the hospital’s back-up generator when electricity went off.