Occupants of a doomed building in the city were on Tuesday paying heavily after defying police orders to vacate three hours before it collapsed, injuring five people, among them a mother and her three children.
On Tuesday evening, the military rescue team managed to save a mother and her two children.
Efforts were in place to save at least two others said to have been stuck on the fourth floor of the seven storey-building.
The building came down at around 10pm on Monday night at Kware area in Embakasi, Nairobi.
The building had developed cracks and the owner had earlier in the day brought in workers to do repairs but they gave up at noon after it became clear it could not be salvaged.
At around 7pm, some tenants called the police who forced the occupants out.
But a few played cat and mouse with the police, and by Tuesday afternoon, it was feared that they were still trapped under the debris.
“We are currently trying to get to those who are trapped. Operations are going on smoothly as planned by the inter-agency management team,” National Disaster Management Unit Deputy Director and Communication Officer Pius Masai told Nation.
Ms Dorothy Aoko, a tenant, said her 15-year-old child and 22-year-old nephew are missing as they had insisted on finishing their supper when others were being evicted.
Ms Aoko said she learnt about the evacuation while at her place of business.
“At the scene, I saw my four other children who told me that the two were eating in the house. Police declined to let me go for them,” Ms Aoko said on Tuesday.
Another tenant, Mosomo Elisali, said residents suspected something was amiss at the weekend when a part of the ground-floor started showing cracks.
Repairs on this section started on Sunday and continued on Monday when the cracks grew bigger.
Mr Joas Nemati, who lived on the seventh floor with his wife and child, told the Nation that his wife called him at work at around 7 pm saying they had been ordered to leave immediately.
At around 10pm when he went to collect their belongings he found the building had collapsed.
But eyes have not been trained on government disaster preparedness after rescue operations started at 8.30am on Tuesday.
“How many people could have been saved had the rescuers arrived on time?” a resident wondered.
Politicians also took advantage of the situation to seek undue publicity with some coming in their political parties’ attires as well as branded vehicles in the name of offering support.
The rescue operation was, however, slowed down by lack of space for excavators to get to the scene, due to congestion.
Mr Masai accused contractors of greed and putting up substandard buildings.
He said the building had 112 rooms with a total of 128 occupants being accounted for. They are sheltered at the nearby Jophena Primary School.
“The operation may take at least three days due to difficulties accessing the scene. We are appealing to well wishers to support the victims with food and non-food items,” he said.
National Buildings Inspectorate secretary Moses Nyakiongora said that it was difficult for the institution to audit buildings in Eastlands as the owners hire goons that chase them away.
UNSUITABLE FOR OCCUPATION
He added that in Nairobi, about 5,000 buildings have been audited, with 640 marked as unsuitable for occupation.
“We have so far demolished over 34 unsafe houses in Nairobi, others forcibly, since the occupants and owners were reluctant,” said Mr Nyakiongora.
Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero said his government had not approved the house and, therefore, the county had no building plan that could help in the rescue.
Dr Kidero added that most of the unapproved buildings are in Embakasi, Pipeline, Kasarani, and Zimmerman.
He donated Sh2 million to the affected families for food and tents and ordered that they be resettled immediately.
MARKED FOR DEMOLITION
The Architectural Association of Kenya, in a statement, regretted the incident and said the building had been identified as unapproved and marked for demolition.
“These government institutions, while performing their roles to the best of ability, are constrained in their capacity to carry out some critical functions – that of capacity to forcibly evacuate people from dangerous buildings. The world over, governments do force people to move from their homes and workplaces when faced with life threatening situations both natural and man-made,” said the statement.
Additional reporting by Brian Moseti