Blast renders Kenyan mission homeless

September 21, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, September 21 – Kenya’s High Commission in Islamabad is picking up the pieces after its doors and windows were ripped out by a powerful suicide blast at a hotel nearby.

High Commissioner Mishi Mwatsahu said on Sunday that experts had been called in to retrieve important information from damaged computers and seal off the extensively damaged chancery.

Speaking exclusively to Capital News, Mwatsahu said the chancery is inhabitable and that they were seeking the government’s assistance to secure alternative office space for their operations.

“We are doing a report and we know the Kenya government will support us in finding a way of getting other premises until the issue of the building is sorted out,” she said.

“We had already paid rent. We normally pay one year in advance. The landlords are also in a dilemma and don’t know how to go about it. It will be hard to get office space. Their insurance can’t cover for such a calamity.”

More than 60 people were killed and 250 injured when a massive explosion rocked the Marriot Hotel in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad on Saturday evening.

Suicide bombers blew up a truck laden with explosives at the gate of the hotel, which is frequented by foreign nationals. The bomb ignited gas cylinders in the hotel’s kitchen which triggered an intense fire that swept through the building, and it is feared the death toll could rise significantly.

The streets around the hotel in the centre of the city were littered with burned out vehicles, crumpled furniture and other debris, while huge trees were snapped in half.

A crater – measuring 20 metres wide by eight metres deep – marked the spot where the truck exploded.

Kenya’s High Commission, House No. 8-A Embassy Road, is about 500 metres away from the hotel, but the damage to it was massive.

“It’s quite extensive. All the windows were ripped out. All the doors were ripped off. All security burglar proofing was ripped off. Just imagine all the safes were open when we got there!” she exclaimed, explaining the force of the bomb blast.

Mwatsahu said that she was simply shocked by the incident.

“Some of our documents were destroyed. Some of our computer gadgets were destroyed. We have called in experts to look at them and see whether they can be repaired or information retrieved.”

The High Commissioner thanked God that all staff at the High Commission were safe.

“If it happened on a Friday it would have been devastating. The conference room where we meet as chief officers of the mission is full of glass – half an inch of glass! So you can imagine if we were sitting around the conference table, what could have happened to us?” she posed. 

Anthony Kiriba, First Secretary at the mission, said he was called by the security officer just after 7pm (Pakistan time) and asked to go to the Commission immediately.

“I was there in 20 minutes because I live about 12 kilometres from the office. What I saw was scary. I was worried because it’s usually foreigners that frequent the hotel. I began placing calls to find out if any of our citizens had been hurt in the explosion,” he narrated on phone to Capital News.

“I called and made sure our staff were unhurt and asked for police reinforcement to seal off the chancery,” said Kiriba, who is also the Head of Chancery.

He expressed that they’re liaising with the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Nairobi on securing a temporary office: “Right now, we are shifting our files to a secure location.”

Mwatsahu has assured that all Kenyan students residing in the country were also safe.

The Czech foreign ministry meanwhile has confirmed to AFP that Ambassador Ivo Zdarek had been killed in the blast, without giving further details.

Earlier, embassy officials told AFP that Zdarek called his embassy from inside the hotel moments after the explosion asking to be rescued, but had not been heard from since.



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