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Kenya demolishes 78 risky buildings after deadly collapse
by Staff Writers
Nairobi May 6, 2016

Kenya building collapse toll stands at 49 as rescue efforts end
Nairobi (AFP) May 7, 2016 - A total of 49 people are confirmed to have died after an apartment building collapsed in the Kenyan capital last week, authorities said Saturday, as they announced the end of the rescue operations.

The six-storey block went down on April 29 in an impoverished part of Nairobi following days of heavy rain, triggering a desperate search for survivors.

Overall, 140 people were rescued, said Pius Masai, the head of Kenya's natural disaster management unit.

Among the lucky ones was a seven-month-old baby who was miraculously found alive after four days under the rubble. Her mother did not survive. Four other residents were pulled to safety as late as Thursday.

"We have come to the end of this search and rescue operation after recovering 49 bodies for people confirmed dead," said Masai.

Another 47 people remained missing, he added, though it was unclear whether they were actually in the building at the time of the accident.

The recovery operations had in recent days been extended to a river bordering the apartment building, because emergency workers feared some residents may have tried to jump to safety as the building crumbled around them.

The dwelling's collapse has been blamed on a combination of shoddy construction and bad weather.

Located in the poor, tightly-packed Huruma neighbourhood, the building, which housed around 150 families crammed into single rooms, had been slated for demolition after being declared structurally unsound.

But an evacuation order for the structure, built just two years ago, was ignored.

The government, under pressure to take action against unsafe construction practices following the deadly accident, responded by earmarking 78 high-risk buildings in the capital for demolition.

But as the excavators moved in on Friday, local authorities came under fire for not giving adequate notice, and Nairobi governor Evans Kidero on Saturday suspended the demolitions to give residents time to find new accommodation.

Three buildings near the site of the April 29 collapse which have already been evacuated will still be torn down as planned.

Two brothers who owned the apartment building have been released on bail and an inquiry into the accident is ongoing.

Several buildings have collapsed in recent years in Nairobi and other Kenyan cities, where a property boom has seen buildings shoot up at speed, often with scant regard for regulations.

A week after an apartment block collapsed killing 42 people, Nairobi authorities on Friday began to demolish 78 high risk buildings, according to an AFP journalist at the scene, leaving some residents homeless. As excavators moved in to demolish the unsafe dwellings, officials came under fire for not giving residents of the buildings earmarked for demolition adequate warning. People who had been living in the buildings began the search for new shelter carrying their furniture and possessions through the nearby streets. The demolitions came a day after four people were pulled alive from the rubble of the building that collapsed last Friday when heavy rains hit the Kenyan capital causing floods and landslides, although one died shortly after being rescued. "They are risky, people cannot stay there. We don't want to suffer another incident where a building comes down with residents," said Christopher Khaemba, the head of Nairobi county planning. He spoke to journalists in the impoverished Huruma area in the north east of the capital -- the same part of the city as the six-floor building that collapsed last week due to shoddy construction. As many as 70 people are still missing following the tragedy and police have arrested and bailed the two brothers who owned the building. The authorities have faced calls to prevent a repeat of the collapse, but there was also criticism of them for not giving residents enough notice. "They could have at least given the families a one month notice before demolishing," said Grace, a resident of one of the blocks that will be levelled by officials. "People do not know where to take their families." Some evicted residents alleged that thieves had taken advantage of the chaos to steal from them while others complained about being forced to leave days after paying the rent for the month of May. Several buildings have collapsed in recent years in Nairobi and other Kenyan cities, where a property boom has seen buildings shoot up at speed, often with scant regard for regulations.

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Previous Report
Four rescued six days after Kenya building collapse
Nairobi (AFP) May 5, 2016
Four people were pulled alive Thursday from the rubble of an apartment block that collapsed six days ago when heavy rains hit Nairobi, causing floods and landslides in the Kenyan capital. There were cheers and shouted prayers from the crowd gathered at the site of the ruined six-storey building as a woman, covered with a blanket and lying on a stretcher, was carried to a waiting ambulance. ... read more

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