NAIROBI (Reuters) - Two children were pulled alive on Tuesday from the wreckage of a seven-storey building in a residential area of Nairobi, rescue services said, nearly 24 hours after the building collapsed.
The Kenya Red Cross said the two children were rescued from the rubble minutes apart. A woman was also found but died before she could be removed from the site. The children were rushed to hospital.
“We have pulled out three ... Two children, a boy and a girl all are alive,” Barsdley Nyangi, a rescuer with the National Disaster Management Unit, told Reuters.
Earlier in the day, Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero, speaking at the scene of the collapse, said 30,000 to 40,000 buildings built without approval in Kenya’s capital were at risk.
Residents said tenants of the building, part of a low-income neighbourhood called Pipeline Estate in southern Nairobi, near the international airport, had noticed cracks in the walls a week earlier. The building owners plastered over them with cement.
The cracks re-emerged on Monday morning, prompting officials to ask the residents to leave the building. At least 128 did leave, saving them from being trapped when the building came down
Rescuers drawn from various government departments dug through the rubble of the building with bare hands, pulling out broken beds, mattresses and television sets, after a specialist unit from the military cut through walls and floors at the top.
Distraught relatives stood nearby and watched. They included David Kisia, who said he got a call while at work on Monday night about the collapse. His wife and three children were still missing at lunchtime on Tuesday.
“I have told them that my family is to the back of the building, but they are insisting on finishing one side first,” Kisia said.
Kenya has seen similar tragedies in the past. Forty-nine people died last year when another building collapsed during a heavy nighttime downpour in a poor neighbourhood. The government ordered the demolition of many other buildings after that incident.
Risky buildings are usually in the poorer sections of the city. Attempts to deal with the problem in the past have been stymied by owners of the buildings, who rush to court to stop demolition or other actions.
Kidero asked magistrates and judges to consider the human cost of unsafe buildings before issuing court orders against demolition.
“They should not come in our way because the result is what we have seen here,” he said.
Additional reporting by George Obulutsa and Humphrey Malalo; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Larry King