, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 28 – Is it a case of arson or an accident?
Thursday’s dawn fire at Gikomba market is the latest in a series of similar incidents.
In fact, this according to traders and authorities, is the fourth in a period of seven months.
But it has been described as the worst fire incident at the market, which hosts thousands of traders.
By Thursday morning, 15, people had been confirmed dead while more than 70 casualties were undergoing treatment at the Kenyatta National Hospital and other facilities within the city.
“Gikomba fires are mysterious,” George Basweti, a long-time security guard at the market told Capital FM News.
No investigations by authorities have established the real cause of the perennial fire incidents at the market, located approximately four kilometres from the Central Business District.
Traders who spoke to this reporter said electrical faults have been the easiest “escape route.”
The recent fire affected Kwa-Mbao area, burning down over 1,000 timber yard stalls.
“I am tired of losing property every now and then. There’s no progress,” an emotional Esther Mwaniki, a trader at the affected area said.
She has worked at Gikomba market for 10 years, and this to her, is the worst incident.
“I have lost friends. I no longer care about the property,” a teary Mwaniki said.
Just like the thousands of traders, she is fatigued but cannot run away from her source of income.
If given a chance, she says, “I would go to a stable place….somewhere I am assured of safety.”
Kennedy Waigwa too has lost property worth millions over the years.
“I am tired,” the only words an agitated Waigwa uttered while overlooking the remains of his timber yard from a distance.
“Traders usually hire rooms here, so that they can report to work on time,” a trader revealed, making reference to those who died in an adjacent flat.
Another said, “the fire goes in patterns. Another side of the market was affected recently,” sentiments shared by a detective, who did not want to be named.
“There’s a certain pattern. This is not just another fire incident. There’s more to it,” the officer said.
He wondered, “why Gikomba alone?”
Of the 15 victims, four of them were children.
Nine bodies were found inside a six-storey flat, while five died upon arrival at the Kenyatta National Hospital while another one succumbed to injuries at Mama Lucy hospital.
More than 70 casualties were undergoing treatment at various health facilities within the city.
A team of officers drawn from various government agencies, like the Government Chemist, National Disaster Management Unit and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations were at the scene trying to establish what could have transpired.
The fire broke out at 2am and escalated fast to other areas because of gas cylinders and other explosive chemicals.
Will the mystery be unravelled?