At least four people were missing after the collapse of a seven-storey building in the Kenyan capital Nairobi overnight, the Red Cross said yesterday.
The incident occurred in a very poor neighbourhood near Nairobi’s international airport southeast of the capital, Red Cross spokeswoman Noellah Musundi said.
She said the exact number of people missing was unclear, but confirmed rescuers were looking for a mother and her three children.
Police and residents said the authorities were alerted on Monday after cracks appeared in the building, prompting an urgent evacuation before it collapsed two hours later, at about 10pm.
“The collapse was not completely unexpected, which allowed us to evacuate most of the people,” Musundi said of the incident which occurred in the Kware area of Mukuru Kwa Reuben, one of the biggest slums in Nairobi.
Resident Dorothy Ouko said she was worried about her 15-year-old son and 22-year-old nephew who had insisted on finishing their dinner before leaving the building.
She said one of her neighbours on the sixth floor had also insisted on staying, dismissing fears of a collapse.
“She was in the house with her two children and we don’t know where they are now or whether they are alive.” By midday yesterday, 128 tenants had been accounted for, the National Disaster Management Unit said. It was not immediately clear how many people were living there.
“Most families cooperated and were evacuated safely. However, it is believed that some people may have been trapped. Rescue efforts are ongoing,” spokesman Pius Masai said.
Masai said the rescue operation was difficult since space was limited and the adjacent seven-storey building also appeared to be unstable. Tenants there were also evacuated, he said.
Images posted on Twitter by the Kenyan Red Cross showed work to clear the rubble with the help of an excavator, with parts of the building’s red roof clearly visible. A number of soldiers were on site. Masai appealed for anyone with cutters or drilling equipment to join the search and rescue operation.
Quoting City Hall, The Star paper said the structure was built in 2007 without planning permission or approval.
“Kware area was unplanned. No developments are allowed there. But you find that most of these developers were brought by politicians,” Nairobi Lands executive Christopher Khaemba told the newspaper.
Police are reportedly looking for the owner of the building.