Sunday, May 08, 2016

Kenya halts demolition of "unsafe" houses as death toll rises to 49

Kenyan officials on Saturday stopped demolition of houses unfit for habitation in Nairobi for seven days as death toll from the collapsed residential building rose to 49.

Nairobi County Governor Evans Kidero said the move will give tenants sufficient time to seek alternative accommodation after some of the houses they had occupied were demolished.

Kidero said so far some two buildings have been demolished in an exercise which kicked off on Friday, leaving hundreds of residents homeless.

According to Public Works Permanent Secretary Paul Mwangi, 15 other buildings earmarked for demolition were to be brought down on Monday.

"Any land that is within 30 metres from the river should not be developed thus the owner of the collapsed building developed here illegally. We have five buildings that are set to be demolished on Friday and 15 others on Monday," Mwangi told journalists.

The National Construction Authority (NCA) indicated last week that 204 houses would also be demolished in other Nairobi residential areas including: Dagoretti, Umoja, Thika road and South B residential estates, all in Nairobi.

  • The move came after a building collapsed in Huruma on April 29 killing 49 people with more than 50 others still missing.

  • National Disaster Management Unit Incident Commander Pius Masai said 140 people have so far been rescued alive, while 55 others are still reported missing. Masai said they had completed almost 96 percent of the search and rescue operation.
  • "This basically means that the rescue operation is at a critical stage to ensure that those who are still under the rubble are not badly when we are removing the debris," Masai said.
  • He called on relatives of all those who are still missing to be more patient, as the rescue team continues to comb through the rubble.

The ill-fated building in Huruma, according to residents, was built on a waterway, blocking the passage of water which could have weakened its structure and collapsed after heavy rains and flooding on Friday night.

There was no construction plan and that the building had not been approved. Residents said owners and developers of such structures regularly use court orders to block Nairobi County from pulling down structures earmarked for demolition.

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta has promised severe punishment for all those responsible for the collapse of a six-storey residential building in Nairobi.

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