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Team formed to probe Nakumatt tragedy

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 31- The government has formed a Nakumatt Disaster Management Team to investigate the cause of the fierce fire that razed the Downtown supermarket store on Wednesday, claiming several lives.

Internal Security Permanent Secretary Francis Kimemia said on Saturday that the team would be expected to provide guidance on how to retrieve the remains at the site, how to conduct the post mortem, as well as advise on compensation and other legal issues.

“They should categorise the individual victims and their immediate families with a view to determining the varied support that the government and well wishers will give. We want to know their names, by locations or districts where they came from,” the PS relayed.

The fire, which started shortly before 3pm on Wednesday, has so far claimed the lives of 23 people, while another 51 have been reported missing. Only five bodies have been positively identified but the exercise is ongoing.

Investigations into allegations that emergency exits were blocked or were dysfunctional would also be made and the appropriate recommendations drafted.

Mr Kimemia said that the committee, which will comprise of among others Nairobi’s Provincial Commissioner, two Permanent Secretaries and the Town Clerk, will be expected to make regular media briefings and report daily to the office of the President.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, a representative of the Kenya Red Cross and other humanitarian support organisations would also be included in the panel.

“They will also form a Disaster Centre and coordinate information and other support systems; this will help to harmonise the information that is going out to the public,” the PS added.

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Mr Kimemia said the team also expected to submit a comprehensive report of its findings in the next one week.

All Provincial and District Disaster Management Committees were also directed to visit institutions popularly frequented by the public, and review the state of their safety and security.

Recovery efforts at the site were still underway late on Saturday and the rescue team has pledged to work with speed and sift through the debris in a bid to retrieve all bodies.

The PS said DNA testing and post mortems on the remains that have already been recovered would start on Monday next week.

Nakumatt Holdings has offered to pay the cost of the all DNA tests that will be carried out to ascertain the identity of the charred bodies. It has announced that it will cover part of the funereal expenses for the deceased.

The retail chain’s Operations Director Thiagarajan Ramamurthy also relayed that they have put in place proper measures to deal with disasters – such as the fire – in all their branches, to curb the occurrence of such incidents in future.

On its part, the government has pledged to pay for the transportation costs, hospital bills and funeral expenses for the victims. The PS also hinted that they would be meeting later to determine how they will support the immediate families of the affected people.

A counselling post has been established at the City Mortuary to help the families and friends of those who died in the Nakumatt fire come to terms with their loss.

Meanwhile, Mr Kimemia announced that the government through the Nairobi Metropolitan Development Ministry, Nairobi City Council and other towns’ municipal councils was working to beef up the capacity of these areas to deal with fire disasters.

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He said all local authorities and cities would be expected to submit a report of what they require and what deficits they have to the Local Government Ministry by the end of February.

This was in response to reports that the Fire Fighting squad at the Nakumatt disaster scene ran out of water during their operations.


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