Africa

Kenya building collapse: Nearby residents asked to leave homes

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Media captionThe six-storey building collapsed after heavy rains

People in Nairobi have been asked to leave their homes near a six-storey building that collapsed in heavy rain, killing at least 12 people.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta visited the disaster site and said the building's owners should be arrested.

A baby was among 134 people pulled from the rubble and rescuers are searching for more people who may be trapped.

The buildings to be evacuated house 1,000 people and are built next to a river bank.

The Red Cross criticised "chaotic scenes" as rescuers arrived after the Friday night collapse. Nairobi's police chief has said rescue teams were delayed on their way to the scene by hours-long traffic jams caused by flooded roads.

The Red Cross said 150 building units and adjacent homes were affected.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta visited the disaster site on Saturday
Image copyright AFP
Image caption A girl is rescued from the collapsed building - at least five of the dead are reported to be children

Rainfall has caused landslides, washed away houses and flooded roads. Police said 19 people had died in the Nairobi rains, including those in the collapse.

The building took three months to construct, the BBC's Emmanuel Igunza reports from Nairobi. County authorities say it had been earmarked for demolition and did not have a certificate of occupation that would allow tenants to rent the 119 rooms out.

"The building went down during the heavy rains, but we still want to establish if all the procedures were followed when it was constructed," Nairobi's deputy governor Jonathan Mueke told reporters at the scene.

He said the building, reportedly built two years ago, did not have planning permission.

Across the city, more than 800 homes were affected by the flooding, Kenya's Red Cross said.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption A woman mourns the loss of a relative

Huruma is a poor district on the outskirts of Nairobi made up of narrow streets, adding to the difficulties of fire fighters in getting to the scene.

After some time, the army took charge of the rescue with the help of the Kenyan Red Cross.

"It appears that some people are getting impatient but... we have got indications that there are people who are still trapped in the rubble," said Nathan Macharia Kigotho, the director of the national disaster operation centre.

"We don't want to use heavy machines because it is likely to crumble and crush them."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Residents of nearby buildings watched the rescue efforts from their balconies

Poor building standards are a fact of life in Kenya, correspondents say. A survey carried out last year found that more than half the buildings in the capital were unfit for habitation.

The high demand for housing in Nairobi has led to some property developers bypassing building regulations to reduce costs and increase profits.

President Kenyatta last year ordered an audit of all the buildings in the country after a spate of collapses.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Survivors of the building collapse sit with items they have managed to save

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