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Tassia tragedy: Four dead, 29 rescued as search continues

Friday December 6 2019

Tassia building collapse

Remnants of the six-storey building that collapsed at Tassia estate in Embakasi, Nairobi County, on December 6, 2019, leaving at least four people dead. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

BRIAN OKINDA
By BRIAN OKINDA
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Four people have been confirmed dead and 29 rescued so far, following the collapse of a six-storey building at Tassia estate in Embakasi, Nairobi County.

Nairobi Regional Commissioner Wilson Njenga gave this update on Friday evening as search and rescue efforts continued, following the incident minutes after 8am.

Mr Njenga said the 29 people were taken to Mama Lucy and Kenyatta hospitals and that they feared several people remained trapped under the debris.

Paramedics carry a survivor to an ambulance
Paramedics carry a survivor to an ambulance from the site of the collapse of a building at Tassia estate in Embakasi, Nairobi, on December 6, 2019. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

TENANTS

Personnel from the Kenya Red Cross Society, St John Ambulance, Nairobi County's fire department, Kenya Police and the Kenya Defence Forces’ Disaster Response Unit (RDU) were among those at the scene.

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Red Cross earlier said 22 families lived in the building while Public Works Principal Secretary Gordon Kihalangwa said the block had 46 houses.

The owner of the building, identified only as Mama Kanyoni, was expected to give tenancy records but she was nowhere to be found. She reportedly owns building in Pipeline and Tassia estates.

The cause of the tragedy was not immediately clear but residents said the ground floor collapsed so the other floors followed.

Resident Michael Munyoki was away when the building, in which he had leased a top floor room for his business, tumbled down.

“I had left the house earlier, at around 6.30am, as I had duties to attend to in Karen. Sometime after 8am, a neighbour called informing me that it had collapsed and that an adjacent one, where I had stored some of my items, had been partly damaged by the rubble."

Paramedics treat a survivor pulled out of the
Paramedics treat a survivor pulled out of the rubble of a six-storey building that collapsed at Tassia estate in Embakasi, Nairobi, on December 6, 2019. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

DANGER

Some residents said they had warned the owner of the building about a possible collapse but that she ignored them.

But others said there had been no signs of weakness so many were caught unawares.

Household items and strewn personal possessions covered in sludge and dirt emphasised the effects of the tragedy

Belongings remained scattered in muddy rivulets, which made their way through the heap of concrete debris.

The ill-fated building is said to have been built in an area whose soils were miry, a risky situation compounded by poor drainage in a season of heavy rains.

The poor drainage and lack of access roads hampered operations as the dirty water filled entrances created to reach the victims.

By early evening, rescuers were still trying to reach those trapped, with several of them communicating and urging a quick rescue.

Residents of Tassia estate in Embakasi, Nairobi
Residents of Tassia estate in Embakasi, Nairobi County, watch as rescue operations take place following collapse of a six-storey building on December 6, 2019. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

HUGE CROWDS

Public Works Principal Secretary Gordon Kihalangwa decried the heavy presence of onlookers, saying they slowed the rescue and that some looted.

“Several people are still trapped under the rubble. Rescue operations are going well but the huge number of people at the scene is affecting efficiency," he said.

Mr Njenga urged onlookers, whom police threatened with tear gas at one point, to give the rescuers room to work.

Embakasi East member of Parliament Babu Owino visited the scene to console the victims.