NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 20 – The government has called off Wednesday’s planned mass burial for the Sinai fire tragedy victims and will instead provide Sh60,000 to all the bereaved families in addition to supplying coffins.
Special Programmes Minister Esther Murugi told journalists that the government would hold an interdenominational prayer service led by Anglican Archbishop Eliud Wabukala at Uhuru Park, before handing over the bodies to the families.
Murugi explained that compensation for about 70 families, whose kin had already been identified, would take place after burial arrangements had been made.
Murugi pointed out that there were still about 49 other bodies that were yet to be identified.
“There is no mass burial because we were able to identify the bodies so we will let each family take care of their deceased and for now we have 70 such families. Once we complete DNA tests for 49 other victims we will go through the same process,” she explained.
The planned mass burial received sharp objection from several quarters including the Chief Government Pathologist who felt that it would be best to identify the bodies first.
Meanwhile 164 families who lost property in the fire will receive Sh10,000 as start up capital to help them re-coup.
The Special Programmes Ministry also revealed that it would pay six months’ rent to those who were displaced by the fire in order to help them find alternative accommodation.
“This is because we will not be able to provide immediate resettlement until the insurance people give us the way forward,” she explained.
Murugi, who was accompanied by her PS Andrew Mondoh and Nairobi Provincial Commissioner Ndirangu Njoroge, further explained that the government had so far spent Sh11.5 million to help the fire victims.
She noted that the money had been released to the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) to help deal with the costs of treating the recuperating victims and did not include food, blankets and logistics.
Mondoh added that the government had set up a committee under the chairmanship of the Nairobi PC, which would look into the modalities of resettling everyone who lives in high risk disaster areas, including next to railway lines and airports.
“We are looking at all potential disaster areas because you have seen instances where people live two metres away from the railway line; others live along the path lines of airports and others live below the weight lines of Kenya Power and Lighting Company. They all have to move,” he said.
Murugi also lauded Kenyans for their humanitarian assistance at the height of the tragedy. She noted that Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta had contributed Sh1 million and Sh500,000 respectively to assist the victims.
The University of Nairobi donated Sh1 million, doctors and nurses of KNH contributed Sh200,000 and the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency offered drugs equivalent to Sh1.2 million. The Kenya Red Cross Society was also recognised for its efforts.
“In addition, Kenyans were able to donate 5,000 units of blood at KNH. Denmark has also given us Sh2 million while the Israeli and American governments have made pledges to help although they have not yet met them,” said Murugi.
She added that so far 119 people had died as a result of the inferno; 37 succumbed to their injuries while undergoing treatment at KNH while 82 died at the site.
She also explained that everyone who had reported a missing person had undergone a DNA test.
The government has also received specialised doctors from Finland and Norway, who deal with fuel burns to assist the injured.