, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 2 – It sounded like a deflating tyre then, “whoosh!” Jacob Okello says, the building came down.
He says he didn’t see it coming. The caretaker, he says, had not informed them that the National Construction Authority had marked their building for demolition on account of its construction on riparian land and a lack of structural integrity.
“I first had concerns about its safety that very night when I got home at about 8pm and heard my neighbours wonder at cracks forming on the building,” Okello, who resided in the Huruma residential property that came down on Friday night due to heavy rains, tells Capital News.
Erastus Otieno who lies in the hospital bed next to him had inkling. He’d only shared the one-roomed flat with a fellow student for three months but he’d heard rumours; rumours that the Construction Authority had found the building unsuitable for habitation.
Only there hadn’t been a way for him to know for certain as, he learnt later, his landlord had the ‘X’ marks painted over.
Besides, he admits, at Sh4,000 a month, the rent – especially when split in two – was all a student could hope for.
But now, homeless and without belongings — except for the clothes on his back – the cost of shrugging off the concerns seems much higher.
And for Okello, a welder, who shared the one room with his wife and three children, the cost could have been much, much higher had his family not been out of the house. “They’d gone to the shops.”
So side by side they nurse their wounds and broken bones; having faced their mortality and grateful that their housemates were unscathed.
Still, despite Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopha Mailu’s assurances that they would not suffer the additional strain of hospital bills, they have months of recovery to go through and the trauma of having the walls of what was meant to be your sanctuary, cave in on you.