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Saturday 10 December 2016

Four more rescued from rubble after building collapses in Kenya's capital

Published 05/05/2016 | 11:26

A woman is carried away in a stretcher as she is rescued after being trapped for six days in the rubble of a collapsed building (AP)
A woman is carried away in a stretcher as she is rescued after being trapped for six days in the rubble of a collapsed building (AP)

Four more survivors have been found in the rubble of an apartment building that collapsed six days ago amid heavy rain in the Kenyan capital.

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The news raises hope that more people might still be alive in a disaster that left 36 dead and dozens missing in Nairobi.

One of those rescued was a pregnant woman, although her husband said doctors also confirmed their baby had not survived.

Soldiers, firefighters and volunteers have been working around the clock since the April 29 collapse of the seven-storey building, and their spirits were lifted first on Tuesday when a nearly six-month-old girl was found relatively unscathed in a wash basin.

Then on Thursday, they pulled three women and a man from the debris, said Police Chief Japheth Koome.

One of the women, 24-year-old Elizabeth Night Odhiambo, was eight months pregnant, said her husband, Stephen Onyango.

A crowd broke into applause as Ms Odhiambo - under a blanket and with her face covered with an oxygen mask - was carried on a stretcher to an ambulance.

Despite the loss of their child, Mr Onyango said he was joyful his wife was still alive.

"I cannot say the happiness I have," the truck driver said. "I have never had such happiness like this in my life."

Before military engineers broke through slabs of concrete that had trapped Ms Odhiambo in a corner of the building, medics had managed to give her oxygen and an intravenous drip of water and glucose, according to Kenya's Disaster Management Unit.

At least 70 people remain missing, said Kenya Red Cross head Abbas Gullet, and rescuers are working around the clock to find any other survivors.

Authorities initially used diggers in the search, with firefighters and volunteers also removing chunks of debris by hand in the frantic rescue effort. A day after the collapse, the military brought in special equipment. President Uhuru Kenyatta visited the scene.

Trained dogs were brought in, along with equipment to detect breathing and movement, said military spokesman Colonel David Obonyo.

Authorities say it is rare for anyone to survive more than 72 hours without water in such instances.

Following the 2013 collapse of the eight-storey Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, a 19-year-old woman was rescued after being trapped in the rubble for 17 days, surviving on four packets of cookies and some water. It was the worst garment-industry disaster in history, killing 1,127 people.

In Haiti's 2010 earthquake, a 17-year-old girl was found severely dehydrated and near death in a collapsed home 15 days after the quake struck. Rescuers said she may have had access to water from a bathroom.

The April 29 collapse in Nairobi's low-income Huruma district came amid Kenya's April-May rainy season. The Kenya Red Cross said 150 building units and adjacent homes were affected.

A neighbour said the collapsed building had been constructed rapidly and poorly.

It was built less than five metres from a river, when it should have been six times that distance, said local official Steven Kariuki. The National Construction Authority said it had marked the building as unfit for habitation, but the county government failed to follow up.

The building's two owners were taken into custody but released on bail, pending formal charges.

Most of Nairobi's four million people live in low-income areas or slums. Housing is in high demand, and unscrupulous developers often bypass regulations.

After eight buildings collapsed and killed 15 people in the country last year, Mr Kenyatta ordered an audit of all the country's buildings to see if they comply with regulations. The National Construction Authority found that 58% of buildings in Nairobi are unfit for habitation.

Press Association

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