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Hope stays alive at Embakasi collapse scene

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 15 – It was a picture of desperation, anguish and sorrow as relatives of those trapped under rubble in a building that collapsed in Embakasi, Nairobi recounted their last moments with their kin and their hopes of seeing them alive.

Some said they will only lose hope once rescuers finished sifting through the rubble of the entire collapsed building that came down at 11am on Tuesday as construction workers went about with their normal business.

On Wednesday morning, bodies of two young men were pulled out of the rubble where up to 14 people are said to be trapped.

Engineers and construction experts have declared the six-storey building as having been “poorly planned and put up using substandard materials.”

Relatives of the victims who spoke to Capital News told of their last moments with their relatives and how they have been camping at the site waiting to see them pulled out alive.

“I believe my wife is still there because she spoke to people soon after the incident occurred. I will not leave here until I see her. I am praying for God to keep her alive,” Cyrus Mumo, a casual laborer said of his 22-year-old wife Felistus Ndinda.

Mr Mumo recalled how the mother of two left their makeshift house in Mukuru Kwa Njenga early Tuesday morning to go to the pipeline building where she was hired to clean.

“It was just a normal day; she took the children to the daycare centre and left for work. I also went to work I could not imagine it will turn out to be this way. I just hope she is alive,” he said.

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As he spoke, Mr Mumo occasionally posed to stare blankly at a crane which roared as it maneuvered around the rubble which was being cleared by a team led by the military disaster unit.

Another distraught relative Susan Litore told Capital News she believes her husband Nicholas Wanjau is still trapped under the debris and called rescuers to speed up the operation.

“We have been deep in prayers since yesterday (Tuesday). We continue to pray because we hope that he is well,” she said “I have talked to people who managed to escape from here and I have been told that my husband was working on the first floor. Only prayers will help.”

Capital News also spoke to David Kagichu who had been camping at the site looking for his brother Wallace Kimani who had not communicated to them since Tuesday when he left for work.

Police and Kenya Red Cross officials who maintained lists of missing persons said most of the names they had received belonged to people who are residents of Mukuru slum and the surrounding areas of Embakasi.

Up to 20 people who believe that their relatives, mainly casual labourers were trapped under the rubble because they had not communicated or showed up at their homes.

Brigadier George Owinow who is leading a military rescue operation at the site told journalists they were encountering numerous challenges in the rescue mission due to poor planning of neighbouring buildings.

“We could be done [with the operation] by now if there were no buildings around this collapsed one. We are having a problem because the house that collapsed is sandwiched between others but if we continue this way, I am optimistic that we will be through by tomorrow morning,” Brig Owinow said.

He said they had acquired enough equipment that are suitable for the search and rescue operation.

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Nairobi deputy Provincial Police chief Moses Nyakwama told Capital News that detectives were looking for the owner of the building and would also question council officials who approved the plan of the building.

“Our officers are out looking for them, to get them record statements because we must establish what exactly happened,” he said.

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