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Fear of job losses as fire burns sisal factory in Nakuru

Tuesday January 21 2020

Lomolo Sisal Factory

Workers at Lomolo Sisal Factory in Makongeni, Rongai in Nakuru County inspect the effects of a fire that on January 20, 2020 burnt fibre and other property. A man was injured and taken to hospital. PHOTO | CHEBOITE KIGEN | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

PHYLLIS MUSASIA
By PHYLLIS MUSASIA
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Hundreds of casual workers at Lomolo Sisal Factory in Makongeni, Rongai, in Nakuru County are staring at job losses after fire destroyed more than 400 tonnes of processed sisal.

The Monday fire, whose cause is yet to be established, started at the company’s production unit. A man sustained burns after he rushed to save a tractor from the fire.

The fire also reduced the already processed sisal to ashes and destroyed two lorries and a tractor which had been parked outside the factory.

The unit’s Production Manager, Brian Lagat, said the injured man was rushed to Rongai Sub-County Hospital.

PERSONAL ITEMS BURNT

Workers who spoke to the Nation said their personal belongings, including phones, jackets and shoes, were also burnt.

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“About 60 workers were busy doing their job when the fire started abruptly at about 1pm. Most of us were caught unawares because all the machines were off at that time,” said Mr Stephen Wanyonje Otieno, a supervisor.

Mr Otieno noted that the fire broke out at a far corner outside the busy unit and rapidly spread to the partly open building where all processed sisal products are stored.

“Most of the workers, especially women, narrowly escaped being hurt. Within seconds, the whole unit was up in flames. Nothing was saved,” Mr Otieno said.

SH200M LOSSES

Mr Lagat said the company is counting losses of more than Sh200 million.

“It is a big blow to us. We hope the cause of the fire is established soon. We cannot say it was due to an electric fault because no machine in the unit was running at that time,” he said.

Mr Lagat said that machines at the processing unit usually start operations at 2pm every day.

When the Nation visited the factory, workers were still pouring water on the burnt sisal which was still emitting smoke.

PROBE STARTED

Rongai Sub-County Police Commander Bernard Rotich said investigations into the matter have been launched.

He said that security has also been beefed up at the factory.

“The incident has shocked everybody including police since it is the first at this factory. We are collaborating with the office of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to ensure the cause of the fire is established. From there, we shall issue directions,” Mr Rotich said.

The factory -- started in 1962 -- produces 14 tonnes of sisal and fibre daily.

It is the only sisal processing factory in the Rift Valley.

It exports its products to West Africa, European and Arab countries.