NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 30 – He woke up just like any other day. Little did he know that this particular Wednesday would turn out to be different.,
Sammy Kipchirchir, a survivor of the Nakumatt Downtown Supermarket inferno, narrates his heart breaking experience from his hospital bed at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH).
“I had gone to Nakumatt at around 3pm to withdraw money from my M-PESA account (a mobile phone money transfer) which is on the ground floor of the supermarket. After that I went shopping upstairs with two of my colleagues,” Mr Kipchirchir recounts.
He says as soon as they were through with the shopping and were walking downstairs to pay for the items, there was a loud explosion followed by screams of ‘Fire! Fire!’
“We rushed down and by the time we reached the entrance scared shoppers and employees were all pushing their way out to escape the blaze,” he adds.
Mr Kipchirchir says, him and his two friends manoeuvred and made their way out of the already blazing and smoky store.
“Unfortunately as people were trying to run away, I was hit by some, fell on the road and trampled on by those who were running away.”
“There was so much confusion because there were only two doors available for people to use.”
“I fell on my back, badly injured my left leg and I could not stand up,” Mr Kipchirchir narrates about his close shave with death.
The survivor says he was rescued together with two other women, who were also injured in the stampede, by the St John’s ambulance team that rushed them to KNH after close to an hour.
The 47-year-old says his two friends escaped without injuries.
“We talked on phone yesterday (Thursday) and one of them came to visit me today (Friday),” he goes on to say.
Mr Kipchirchir, a father of three however says he is not sure of emerging claims that the doors were closed as people tried to rush out, to prevent looting at the store.
“It could be possible because even outside there were police with teargas canisters and maybe there were people who wanted to loot. Its possible but I wouldn’t know because I was already hurting,” he reveals.
He says there is need for emergency efforts to be taken seriously and injured people rushed to hospital the moment they are rescued.
“I realised that one can die while waiting to be rushed to hospital, because there are not enough ambulance services and the traffic jam in Nairobi is terrible,” he explains.
According to Leonard Omwenga, officer in charge of the ward, Mr Kipchirchir is in a stable condition.
“He is receiving medication as he awaits an operation on his left leg, which was injured,” the officer said.
At least 16 bodies have so far been retrieved from the debris, and by Friday morning 47 people had been reported missing at the Kenya Red Cross tent, raising concerns that many could be trapped inside the wrecked supermarket.
Investigations are still ongoing to establish the cause of the fire.