Days after the fire tragedy at Gikomba market on Thursday last week, Mr Godfrey Gitonga has unsuccessfully been trying to trace his wife who he now believes perished in the fire.
Mr Gitonga, a trader in Nairobi, was woken up by his wife Charity Rubi on the fateful morning when the fire started just outside the apartment building adjacent to Gikomba market where the family has been living since January this year.
“She was the first one to spot the fire that was burning down the furniture workshops. I dressed up quickly and we rushed out of the house with our daughter,” the 30-year-old told the Nation at Chiromo Mortuary.
In the confusion and panic that ensued, Mr Gitonga lost touch with his wife and daughter as the deadly fire closed in on them. “The fire was spreading very fast. It was very hot and the smoke was too much. I ran after them before losing them,” he said.
Gitonga would never see his family again.
“I went to Kenyatta National Hospital hoping to find them among those admitted. I later went to City Mortuary to look for their bodies without success,” narrated Mr Gitonga who sustained burns on his legs.
After two days of searching and nearly giving up, he would locate and identify the body of his two-year-old daughter at Chiromo Mortuary on Saturday.
The whereabouts of his wife Rubi, whether dead or alive, are still unknown. “I cannot say with certainty if she died in the fire. We left the house together. If she is still alive, she would have come out already,” Mr Gitonga said amid sobs.
He added: “I came here on Saturday to try and trace her body among the others that were displayed here. Most of them had serious burns and it was difficult to identify them.”
His hope of finding his wife now depends on the results of DNA sampling and tests that were conducted on Monday at Chiromo Mortuary.
By Monday afternoon, post mortems for all the 17 people who died in the fire were successfully conducted. Out of these, seven bodies were positively identified by their kin. Nine bodies were, however, unidentifiable as they had burned beyond recognition.
“I'm prepared for any news. If dead, I am ready to bury her. I only hope the government will carry out the process with speed,” he said.
According to the head of Human Anatomy at Chiromo Mortuary, Prof Peter Gichangi who is leading the identification exercise, the DNA analysis will take about one month before results are announced.
“DNA sampling and matching is a complex process that requires a lot of complex tests. We appeal to the relatives of the deceased to be calm and patient,” he said.
The government appealed to families who have not identified the bodies of their kin and those whose relatives are missing to come forward to identify them.
The exercise will be suspended today to allow enough time for pathologists to reconstruct some of the bodies that were badly burnt to enable the families to view them. Identification of bodies resumes tomorrow.
Twenty-two victims are still admitted at Kenyatta National Hospital with varying degrees of burns.
National Disaster Operations Centre Director Charles Owino said the government will cater for coffins and transportation of the bodies to different destinations for burial.