DNA tests for Nakumatt remains

February 3, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 3 – Forensic experts have begun conducting DNA tests on bodies recovered from last week’s Nakumatt Downtown fire.

Relatives of missing persons spent the better part of Tuesday giving out samples to investigators and experts conducting the DNA tests at the City mortuary.

The DNA tests are being conducted by Bio-tech Forensics, a private company contracted by Nakumatt supermarket.

“I have given samples to the experts and I am now waiting for the results. The sooner they did this, the better because we are so traumatised and we need to bury our kin,” Antony Chang’alwa, a relative who lost a sister said.

Biotech Forensics director Lynn Farah said affected families should expect to conclusively identify their kin after 14 days when the results will be released.

“We are doing it locally, so they should expect the results in two week’s time. It is in our best interest that the results are out as soon as possible,” she told reporters at the City mortuary.

However, family members interviewed said the 14 days given is too long, because it is likely to traumatise them.

Others wondered why the government did not involve itself in the DNA tests, instead leaving it to a private firm.

“The government should have representation in the whole process. We feel neglected by the government,” Aggrey Mukolwe who lost his mother Evelyn in the tragedy protested.

Relatives of the missing persons held a meeting at the City Mortuary on Tuesday and chose John Mutungi to represent them as they explored various angles including legal action against Nakumatt Supermarket.

Mr Mutungi who is a senior partner at the Muthoga Gaturu and Company Advocates said they are exploring all angles.

Mr Mutungi said he lost a niece who was shopping in the supermarket before it caught fire.

“We, the affected members feel that government has abandoned us at this time of need. Nothing seems to be coming out concretely from the government and Nakumatt,” he said.

“Our position is that, from all the evidence that has come through, the management of Nakumatt is criminally negligent and in our view, the Attorney General should consider opening criminal prosecutions against them,” he said.

“We are concerned that even after evidence from witnesses that people were locked inside, the management of Nakumatt went on air and said that they had evacuated everybody from the building. And that means that people who came to put off the fire took the view that there were no people inside. That accounts for the large numbers of casualties we have.”

Director of Police Operations Peter Kavila later addressed a press conference and announced that investigations into the cause of the Nakumatt supermarket tragedy were still underway.

He said detectives were probing claims that the supermarket may have been closed at the time of the fire, making it difficult for people inside to escape.

“We are particularly investigating claims that when the fire broke out a person or persons believed to be part of the Nakumatt management prevented the customers from escaping to save their lives,” he said.

Police Spokesman Erick Kiraithe told Capital News that some witnesses had recorded statements with the police but none of them has been able to give the proper description of those said to have closed the doors.

“That is why we want more witnesses to help us in this investigation because the claims amount to a criminal element,” he said.

Mr Kavila said 27 bodies had been recovered so far, but only nine had been identified.

Molo tragedy

Regarding the oil tanker tragedy in Molo on Saturday, Mr Kavila said out of the 123 people killed, 97 were burnt beyond recognition.

Reports indicated that the 97 bodies were likely to be buried in a mass grave on Monday in Molo.

Seven of the police officers killed in the petrol tanker tragedy had been positively identified.

“Those who have been identified so far are 12 including seven of our officers,” Mr Kavila said and added that 114 survivors were still admitted to various hospitals.

The tragedy occurred on Saturday night when a tanker ferrying 50,000 litres of unleaded petrol from Nakuru to Juba in Southern Sudan overturned at Sachangwan, Molo.

The driver of the tanker then left the scene and reported to the nearby Jolly Farm GSU camp.

“When police officers arrived at the scene accompanied by the driver they found that members of the public had already broken into the tanker and started stealing petrol,” Mr Kavila said.

“It is while the officers were controlling the crowd that the tragic fire broke out,” he added.

Police are investigating reports that the fire was ignited by a man who lit a cigarette just next to the petrol tanker as hundreds of residents siphoned fuel.

“The Driver of the ill-fated tanker has already recorded a statement with the police. Further investigations into all circumstances surrounding the tragedy are in progress,” he added and called on any one with information to volunteer.


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