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Agony and despair as night fire claims five at Gikomba market

Friday June 29 2018

Betty Kaveke Gikomba

Betty Kaveke, a survivor of the Gikomba fire, in at Kenyatta National Hospital on June 28, 2018 where she had gone to search for her children who were missing following the tragedy. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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“I have not seen my three children. They were on the fifth floor,” weeps Ms Betty Kaveke, a trader at Gikomba market where a night fire, once again, has gutted a section of the market.

She is trying to preserve impossible hope in the face of mounting despair.

Ms Kaveke is part of a large group of families, frantic with worry, that are helplessly waiting in agony outside the Accident and Emergency Unit at the Kenyatta National Hospital for news about their loved ones.

“We have been trying to ask for permission to get in and trace our loved ones but we have been denied access. I am still waiting,” she says.


Ms Kaveke left her four children under the care of her two workers to go and collect goods since she is a business lady at the Gikomba market.

“At around 1am, I got a call that Gikomba market was on fire and it had spread to residential houses. Since I stay next to the market, I rushed back only to find that our block was on fire. I have managed to get one of my children, the eldest but three are still missing,” she says.

The eldest, a 14-year-old boy, is said to have escaped but the other three were trapped by the smoke and are yet to be found.


So far, five victims have succumbed to injuries at KNH with at least ten others feared dead in other city hospitals.

“Could they be the ones who are dead? I am finished. It’s sad, very sad. No one has told me any news about my kids,” wails Ms Kaveke.

Among those who died on Thursday morning were one woman and four children, all girls.

Mr Godwill Emmanuel lost a niece but luckily enough the sister and the husband survived, they are admitted with severe burns.


“I got a call at 3am in the morning from an ambulance operated that my sister was among those who were rescued and that they had been rushed to the hospital. What I saw scared me, she has burns on the chest. I am hopeful that she will survive,” he says.

The child, he says, died after suffering burns and chocking on poisonous fumes.

Dr Thomas Mutie, acting chief executive officer KNH confirmed yesterday that the hospital received 70 patients, including 28 males and 42 females, among them 17 children.

The first patient, he said, was received at 3am in the morning.


According to Dr Mutie, a majority of the patients were treated for anxiety, burns and soft tissue injuries.

By Thursday noon, they had treated and discharged 24 patients while 41 were admitted to the national referral hospital.

Five patients, the CEO said, sustained burns above 30 per cent and were admitted in ICU for specialised treatment.

The hospital, he said, was doing its best to save lives.


Some of the victims burned while others choked after inhaling poisonous fumes as they battled to save and salvage their property.

The flames broke out at around 1am at Kwa Mbao area, according to the Kenya Red Cross, before spreading to other parts of the informal market.

The blaze that consumed timber yards and bales of used clothes intensified at around 2.30am Thursday and by 7.30am, firefighters from Nairobi City County Fire Brigade were still battling to put it out.

Mr James Karanja, who was treated and discharged said the fire might have been started by unknown people.

He said the frequent Gikomba market fires should be investigated and brought to stop.