NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 5 – The Kenya Red Cross Society announced on Thursday that it had called off rescue and recovery operations at the Nakumatt Downtown site, after hopes of getting more trapped bodies diminished.
The society’s Spokesman Titus Mung’ou told reporters that rescue workers were able to recover 26 bodies during their eight days of toil at the site.
He said there were no hopes of getting more body parts because the rubble at the burnt supermarket had been cleared.
“From our assessment, there are no more body parts here unless they were burnt down completely to ashes,” he said.
Mr Mung’ou explained that the society had spent more than Sh278,000 in the rescue and recovery exercise, which he described as ‘extremely challenging’.
“We have learnt a lot of lessons from this particular incident. Our volunteers have done a lot and learnt a lot indeed. It will help us in future operations,” he added.
The aid worker told journalists that of the 61 people reported missing, 13 had resurfaced and their names were withdrawn from the list.
He placed the number of missing persons at 48 by Thursday afternoon.
“The others who had been reported missing by relatives have been found to be alive and were not anywhere near the supermarket when it caught fire,” Mr Mung’ou assured.
He said that they intend to publish the names of all the missing persons whose bodies had not been found, to facilitate the tracing process.
“That is why we are urging families who may have found their kin to come forward and withdraw their names.”
He spoke as police announced that they were about to conclude investigations into the cause of the fire.
A senior police officer privy to the investigations told Capital News that they had established the fire had not originated from the generator in the supermarket as earlier reported by witnesses.
The officer told Capital News that the generator had been found to be safe and secure at a fireproof place.
“We have ruled out information that the fire had started from the generator because it was found intact. It even had some fuel,” he said and requested not to be named.
The officer said detectives were still analysing statements recorded from Nakumatt management, staff and witnesses before further steps are taken.
On Tuesday, the Supermarket’s Operations Director Thiagarajan Ramamurthy and another senior manager were questioned at the Central Police station.
The two were also ordered to report back on Wednesday morning for further questioning before they were allowed to leave.
Several staffers and witnesses have also recorded statements to help investigators establish the cause of the blaze, as well as claims that shoppers and staffers may have been locked up during the inferno, thus putting their lives in grave danger.
“Detectives are exploring all the angles including the reports of locking doors by a person or persons believed to be part of Nakumatt management,” Head of Police Operations Peter Kavila said.