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Sinai fire victims still need support, doctor tells court

Tuesday January 27 2015

Dr Sidhe Robert of Hawi Medicins testifies at the High Court on Tuesday during the hearing of a case in which the survivors of the 2011 Sinai slum fire tragedy want to be compensated. PHOTO | PAUL WAWERU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Dr Sidhe Robert of Hawi Medicins testifies at the High Court on Tuesday during the hearing of a case in which the survivors of the 2011 Sinai slum fire tragedy want to be compensated. PHOTO | PAUL WAWERU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

VINCENT AGOYA
By VINCENT AGOYA
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The survivors of the 2011 Sinai slum fire tragedy in Nairobi, which killed more than 100 people, need advanced corrective surgery, which is unavailable locally.

A doctor who treated them told a trial court on Tuesday that the survivors have scars in “special places”, such as in the reproductive organs, buttocks and joints that “hinder normal daily activity”.

Dr Sidhe Robert of Hawi Medicins was testifying at the High Court in Nairobi where the survivors —through Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko, who was then Makadara MP — want the Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) and the Nairobi County government, the then City Council of Nairobi, surcharged more than Sh5 billion for “negligence”.

The fire in Sinai broke out after flammable oil leaked from a malfunctioning pipe at the firm’s depot into the densely populated settlement.

The claimants have accused KPC of failing to store a highly flammable liquid in a proper manner.

They claim KPC let it spill “by not keeping its machinery, plant and pipes in a proper state of maintenance and also failing to warn or notify them of the impending danger”.

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In a medico-legal report presented during the proceedings on Tuesday, the doctor told presiding Judge David Majanja that the injuries ranged from two per cent to 53 per cent burns.

ESTIMATED COST

He said the estimated cost of corrective surgery ranges between Sh150,000 and Sh7 million. “They also suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, which is a condition that requires further care,” the doctor added.

He said the survivors need corrective plastic surgery but decried the “unavailability of such services in the country”.

“We live in a country in which if you suffer burns you have to continue living with your scars, which ultimately hinder your normal day-to-day activities,” the doctor said.

Asked to shed more light on how severe a burn has to be to debilitate an individual, the doctor explained that “any burn above 10 per cent is grave”.

“A number of the patients had post-traumatic stress the devastation was great but it is unfortunate that they have been unable to get adequate support,” Dr Sidhe said.

The recommendations the doctor has made in the report include compensation, varied corrective surgeries, psycho-social support and rehabilitation of the survivors back into the community.

On Tuesday, the claimants closed their case against the State, paving the way for a defence to be charted by lawyers for KPC and the county government.

The parties have been directed to submit their submissions by Friday before a judgment is made in early March.

In the case, the 102 claimants want to be compensated for damages and loss of property and life.

HELD RESPONSIBLE

They want the KPC and the Nairobi County government held responsible for negligence and breach of statutory duties.

They have submitted that at the time of the fire, they were occupants, workers or visitors in the Sinai Settlement Scheme in the city’s Industrial Area.

“On September 12, 2011, while the victims were in their residences, KPC negligently and in breach of its duties allowed flammable petroleum products to run through waste water drainage dug by the council, which burned the victims and caused massive damage to property,” the claim reads.