NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 18 – The second floor of the five-storey Makongeni residential building came down at exactly 3.12am, Harrizon says. He remembers because he was watching an episode of the TV series ‘If Loving You is Wrong’ when it happened.
In particular, a scene where the white woman having an affair with her neighbour’s husband, sneaks into their shed for a regularly scheduled rendezvous.
He was using the reserve power on his laptop as the mains power was out and he had his earphones on as his roommate, also a third-year economics student of the Kenya Polytechnic University College, was sleeping next to him.
“If I didn’t have them on maybe I’d have heard something and we’d have made it out in time,” he reflects.
But they didn’t and for eight hours, Harrizon Odongo and his roommate Fred Nyangoko were trapped under the rubble of their building.
“As we went down all I could think of was death,” Harrizon says.
But he was fortunate as he was not only discharged from hospital with barely a scratch, but able to return to the scene of the collapse 13 hours after the fact and tell of his near-death experience.
His roommate wasn’t so fortunate.
“He’d been sleeping on his side, facing the wall. And so when we went down, both his legs got trapped underneath a slab,” Harrizon reasons. “I tried to lift it off but it was too heavy.”
He could do nothing, he says, except try to offer some psychological comfort as Fred cried out in pain.
“I’ve never heard him cry. He’s usually a tough guy. He must have been in a lot of pain.”
He has no idea what became of the laptop, but his and Fred’s phones he could reach.
“They were on the bedside,” he says as he pulls them out of his pocket.
The first person he could think of calling for help was his aunt, “the one I stayed with when I first came to Nairobi for college.”
But she hang up.
“Then I called my grandma in Seme. She told me she was praying for me.”
His phone battery died at about 8am.
And now, except for the phone in his hand, all he has left is the inside-out sweater he has on.
“I just had my boxers on when the building collapsed so they asked me to put on something to protect my skin from the stone when they pulled me out,” he explains.
He did some collapsing of his own, he continues to narrate, when they pulled him out. “The oxygen was too much. I think my body had adjusted to the low levels of oxygen.”
Harrizon and Fred hadn’t been oblivious to the compromised structural integrity of the building and had planned to move out on Friday.
“We had a roommate who was studying to be a civil engineer and he told our landlord Mwangi not to keep adding floors because the building was already cracking. But until yesterday, we had construction workers here,” he says.
Mwangi was in the wind, according to police, as of Wednesday night and because of cut corners, Friday might have been a day Fred and Harrizon never lived to see.