Two burnt as fire razes Mukuru slum

February 28, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya Feb 18 – At least two people were burnt to death and nearly 3,000 families displaced after a massive fire broke out at Nairobi\’s Mukuru slum.

More than 50 other people suffered burns or suffered injuries as they fled from the fire that spread fast through the densely populated slum.

Police and fire-fighters who responded to distress calls from the residents described the fire as "one of the worst to occur in Nairobi in recent times."

Emergency crews from the City Council of Nairobi who went to put out the fire that started at 10am were unable to venture into the slum due to lack of access roads, eliciting fury from the dwellers who resorted to stoning the fire personnel and their vehicles before police intervened.

"They are not helping us… they have come here to put out the fire yet they are now trying to turn the vehicles, why are they not going to the slum to rescue our houses," one youth yelled as police fired live bullets in the air to disperse the mob.

The fire started at Fuata Nyayo village, and quickly spread through to a village bordering known as Commercial that borders Enterprise Road before it extended to Mariguini.

Area divisional Police chief Thomas Atuti told Capital News they had not established the exact cause of the fire but there were reports that it may have been triggered by a stove that was left unattended.

"So far the information we have is that two people have been burnt to death, there are many more others who have been injured but we have not established the exact number," he said.

The Kenya Red Cross volunteers were at hand to help administer first aid to those wounded before rushing them to hospital.

"There are a lot of people injured in this slum, we have been getting them out of there to take them to hospital, we cannot give the exact number at the moment because there are many teams involved and they have taken them to different hospitals," one Red Cross Volunteer said.

"There is one woman who has been electrocuted but I do not know about her condition. She has been taken to hospital," he added.

When Capital News arrived at the scene, fire-fighters from the Kenya Army and Nairobi City Council were still trying to put out the fire at areas accessible to them while other fire engines got stuck in inaccessible areas of the slum.

Thousands of families were stranded at the South B shopping centre while others were busy trying to rescue their household items from the burning houses.

"I only managed to salvage my TV and sofa sets, all the other items have been burnt," John Oloo, a mechanic who resides at Fuata Nyayo said. "I even don\’t know where to take these things now."

Mercy Makori, a vegetable vendor said: "I am too lucky because my children have come out of that fire safely. We were in the house when it started. Even my husband has called me he is also safe."

Ms Makori was among hundreds of women who camped at the South B mosque to seek refuge after their houses were burnt down.

"We are appealing to well wishers to come and help us, where is the government now?” she posed.

The Kenya Power and Lighting Company said the fire had collapsed two high voltage power lines which supplies electricity to the Nairobi West substation which covers Industrial Area, Lang\’ata, South B, South C, Lang\’ata among others.

"Two high voltage power lines (66 kV) supplying electricity to Nairobi West substation collapsed this morning after a mysterious fierce fire razed down sections of the line at Mukuru slums along Enterprise Road in Nairobi," a statement from the KPLC said.

The firm said parts of Industrial Area, Lang\’ata, Dam Estate, Wilson Airport, Nairobi West Estate, Upper Hill, sections of Nairobi Central Business District, Highrise, Ngumo and part of Ngong Road, Kileleshwa and Kilimani faced a power outage.

"KPLC system controllers and technical staff used alternative power lines to back feed some of the customers where possible," the statement said.

KPLC\’s Nairobi South Deputy Regional Manager Joshua Mwangi said inaccessibility of the Mukuru slum hampered fire fighting efforts, noting this will pose a challenge to KPLC in the process of reconstructing the line.

"This is the third time that fire from the slums, which are built on the wayleave of the high voltage lines, has consumed the line causing large swathes of Nairobi to go without power supply," he said.

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