, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 5 – Looking at his dust covered hair, Ronaldo football jersey and sneakers, there is no doubt that Eric Ochieng was in the Huruma residential building that collapsed on Sunday night.
Except he wasn’t there at the exact time of the collapse; he was busy watching an Arsenal game in the neighbourhood.
“I had gone to the M-PESA but then I found that I’d left my phone in the house. So I decided to catch a few minutes of the Arsenal game.”
So engrossed was he in the match, he recounted, that he wasn’t even cognisant that his home had turned into rubble until he decided to head back and witnessed the police use tear gas to disperse locals from the scene of the building collapse.
“I thought the police must have a reason for fighting us,” he told Capital FM News.
But he soon came to the realisation that a building had collapsed and not just any building: the one he’d left his wife and six-year-old son in.
“An officer tried to get in my way but I managed to push him aside and rush to the place where I estimated our house would be. I pushed a slab away, we lived on the sixth floor, and I was able to crawl through.”
In that space, he says, he was able to find and push out two adults and a child and except for a Bible, a photo of his wife which he proudly displays and his wife’s cell phone; there was no sign of his family.
“They had to forcefully pull and carry me out because I was so distraught,” he says.
It was in this state of anguish that he finally heard from his wife.
“I’d sat just crying and staring at the rubble for about 20 minutes when an unknown number called my wife’s phone. When I picked up it was my wife. She and my son had left the house just a few minutes after me for a chama. So she was calling me from a neighbour’s house.”
Miraculous, is how he describes how Sunday night turned out.
“I mean, I’d left her lighting the jiko for our evening meal,” he recounts.
Incredible, he continues to explain, because his son had a premonition of the collapse.
“Just yesterday (Saturday) he took me out of the house to see the cracks on the building and told me I’d have to work hard to get us out of here. I told him we would if God willed it and even in this tragedy, I see the hand of God. We’re finally out of there and going back isn’t an option at this point.”