NWSC mounts defence over store fire

February 4, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 4 – The Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company has defended itself against claims that its water hydrants in the city centre were not in working condition during the Nakumatt Downtown fire.

The company’s Corporate Affairs Manager Mbaruku Vyakweli insisted on Wednesday that most of its hydrants are in good working order, and that the two main ones in the Central Business District (CBD) were even used to help extinguish the blaze last week.

He however said that their main challenge regarding the hydrants was vandalism.

“As far as we are concerned, the hydrants are in good order and they are being checked regularly,” he stated.

“My request to the public is that we need to be supportive. As we were going around, we noticed that there are some hydrants, which have been vandalised and they are not in good working order,” he added.

Mr Vyakweli was speaking to Capital News, where he stressed that they did all they could to help to put out the flames at Nakumatt Downtown.

“On that day, what happened was that we diverted all the water to the city centre, so the pressure was okay and everything was okay,” he explained, categorically stating that the water hydrants are in good working condition.

His statement contradicted claims that the hydrants in the CBD were not functioning.

Fire-fighters putting out the flames that engulfed the Nakumatt store on that fateful day claimed that they had to get water from Nyayo Stadium about three kilometres away.

Although fire-fighters from the Nairobi City Council were the first on the scene, their trucks ran out of water barely half an hour after their arrival.

According to G4S Fire Services Manager Clive Lee, a city by-law also prohibits private fire fighting companies from drawing water from the hydrants under the City Council.

Nairobi Mayor Geoffrey Majiwa had vowed to raise the issue at the next board meeting of the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company, to rectify this problem.

Other than the fire hydrant problem, fire fighters also had to contend with physical, regulatory and financial obstacles to extinguish the raging fire that reduced Nakumatt Downtown to a smouldering ruin.

Traffic congestion, chronic water shortages and lack of coordination by different fire-fighting agencies were the major obstacles.

The City Council’s poor equipment, training and inadequate fire stations also compounded the problems.


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