01:51 - Source: CNN
Many feared trapped in Kenya building collapse

Story highlights

NEW: 96 people remain missing, according to the Kenyan Red Cross

Dozens of people have been rescued, disaster official says

National construction agency had previously condemned the building, authorities say

CNN —  

The number of people killed after a residential building collapsed in Kenya has risen to 21, a disaster official said.

The seven-story building fell Friday in Nairobi as heavy rains inundated the capital.

So far, 135 people have been rescued, according to Nathan Kigotho of Kenya’s National Disaster Operation Center.

The building in the residential area of Huruma in northeast Nairobi housed about 164 one-room apartments.

It’s unclear how many were occupied at the time of the collapse, Red Cross spokesman Abbas Gullet told CNN affiliate KTN.

An additional 96 remain missing, said Anthony Mwangi of the Red Cross.

Two other young children rescued

Two other young children have been rescued so far, although they came much earlier in the operation. Hours after the disaster, a man emerged from the rubble holding up a baby wrapped in a blanket, and the crowd erupted into cheers.

Hours after a residential building collapsed in a heap of rubble in Kenya’s capital, a man emerged holding up a baby wrapped in a pink blanket as the crowd erupted into cheers.

Another man followed him, carrying a toddler also pulled from the debris. Both children were rushed to waiting ambulances.

As the hours passed following Friday’s collapse of the seven-story building in Nairobi, rescuers heard sounds of hope as voices of trapped survivors called out, terrified but alive. Workers yanked chunks of concrete from where the building once stood, the cries spurring their efforts.

Rescuers worked through the night to find survivors.
Sayyid Abdul Azim/AP
Rescuers worked through the night to find survivors.

At least 12 people were killed and an additional 134 others suffered injuries, the Kenyan Red Cross said.

Shoes, pots, photo albums

Rescuers frantically scoured through the debris overnight to find survivors.

“Don’t cry, we’re coming!” one man was heard yelling in Swahili, in video from the scene. “Let’s move faster,” one person implored others involved in the rescue effort.

Household items lay scattered as residents prayed and wept. Others carried debris using their bare hands.

“It’s heartbreaking … amongst the rubble you’ve got mattresses strewn around, children’s shoes, pots and pans, photo albums,” said Arnolda Shiundu, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross.

“Every time we move some rubble and we hear voices,” she said, “it gives the multiagencies that are here the morale to keep on fighting so that we can get as many people – as many survivors as possible.”

Kenya’s defense forces have taken control of the scene with help from the Kenya Police and various medical agencies.

Heavy rains

The building collapsed during heavy rains. It’s unclear what caused it to fail, but residents told the Red Cross the bottom floors caved in first.

Kenya Police spokesman Charles Owino said it was too early to give definitive answers, but he expected preliminary information soon.

“It’s not a new building; it’s an old building, so hopefully the planning department is able to tell us,” he said.

“We don’t how how much the heavy rains could have caused the building to fall. There could be other technical reasons.”

Structure had been condemned

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta visited the scene Saturday morning. He asked the country’s disaster authorities to survey other houses in the area, determine if any were likely to collapse and move residents out, the National Police Service said.

He also ordered the owners of any unstable structures be arrested after it emerged the building that collapsed had previously been condemned by the National Construction Authority, the police statement said.

CNN’s Briana Duggan, Roba Alhenawi and Bijan Hosseini contributed to this report.