NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 29 – Ishmael Abdul Mohammed, 17, is one of the distressed relatives of missing persons who have not been traced since Wednesday’s massive fire that razed one of Nairobi’s busiest supermarkets.
Mr Mohammed told Capital News that he was with his 20-year-old sister Cecilia and mother Khadija, 37, outside the Jamia Mosque at about 2.30 pm before they went into Nakumatt Downtown.
“They told me they are going to buy a few items, and mum said she was going to buy me a gift she had promised me. So I was left at Jamia,” Mr Mohammed, a Madrassa student in Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate recalled.
“About 15 minutes later, my sister telephoned me and she was crying for help, she said she was engulfed in smoke and I could hear my mother crying also. Then the telephone went off,” he said.
Mr Mohammed rushed to the burning mega store but he could not see any of his relatives.
“My mother did not have a phone, so I called my sister’s mobile phone and it was off. I don’t know what may have happened to them. I have gone to all the hospitals where the victims were taken and none of them is there,” he said, tears flowing down his cheeks.
“My sister was crying when she called me,” he said. “My mother was also shouting for help and I could hear many other people crying in the background. I don’t know what to do next; I just hope they are alive,” he said moments after he underwent counseling by Kenya Red Cross staff.
As he struggled to make calls to other relatives to help trace his mother and sister that Wednesday, he said, a mugger grabbed his mobile phone and took off.
“There was confusion all over. I just found myself in the crowd and there were many people. My mobile phone was snatched and I have not found it,” he said of the confusion that reined the scene as police struggled to keep off curious onlookers who had gathered outside the supermarket.
Mr Mohammed said his family was staying in Kenya as aliens, having fled Somalia recently.
“My father and mother are Somali. I don’t know what to do. But I have contacted my relatives in Mandera and others in Eastleigh,” he said.
On two occasions, Mr Mohammed had tried to storm the supermarket on Thursday even as fire fighters continued to put out the blaze.
“I don’t know what they are waiting for; they should just start getting out debris from the building, or allow us to do it ourselves. They are taking too long,” he said.
Mr Mohammed’s case is just one of the more than 20 that had been reported at the Kenya Red Cross distress centre on Kenyatta Avenue where officials were busy counseling relatives and friends of the missing people.
Many of them had not gone home since Wednesday night.
“I have been waiting here to see if any good news could come. But none has been forthcoming,” a distressed Mr Mohammed said.
Also outside the premise on Thursday morning was Simeon Odera who said his sister Janet had called saying that she was choking in smoke at about 3 pm.
“I spoke to her when things were happening, she sounded distressed and told me she was choking. She was crying and shouting for help,” he said.
He said Janet, 40 was an accountant at the National Irrigation Board and was a mother of three.
“She told me, that she is inside Nakumatt and there was smoke all over and that there was total darkness. I then telephoned her back and she told me to pray for them because they were dying,” he said and added “These were her last words before her phone went off.”
Mr Odera had pitched camp outside the supermarket since Wednesday evening before he visited the Coptic, Kenyatta and Avenue hospitals to look for his sister.
“I have not been able to trace her. I just don’t know what to do,” he said.