Nakumatt Downtown fire death toll cofirmed at 20.

As reported in an earlier post this week, I was wondering if there we’re any casualties in the Nakumatt Downtown fire a couple of days back. Details are now emerging in the media that the death toll is now a confirmed 20 with numbers expected to rise to possibly forty or more. This really bad considering that Nakumatt Holdings had initially reported that there we’re no confirmed casualties and they had only 4 members of staff missing after doing a head count.

It has also been reported that many friends and family received phone calls from those who died in the fire just before either they suffocated from smoke inhalation or we’re burnt alive. It is truly a horrific case of gross negligence on the part of Nakumatt Holdings since not only did they initially close their doors when the fire started to stop looters from coming in, but apparently, the emergency exit routes we’re also blocked and could not be accessed! Nakumatt Holdings, the owners of Nakumatt Downtown need to be taken to task on what appears to be a case of profit at the cost of basic human rights.

Finally, as of this writing, Nakumatt Holdings has finally made a media briefing on the calamity and what their intended next steps – we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next. One thing is certain though after this terrible incident, people are going to pay special attention when shopping and take a much closer look at general safety measures that either are or are not in place.

God bless the victims and families of the Nakumatt Downtown fire tragedy.

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  1. […] has failed to have internet crisis communications via its web site. It is now 3 days since the Nakumatt Downtown fire tragedy that now has a confirmed death toll of approximately 40 people. However, the Nakumatt Holdings web […]

  2. Hellen
    February 1, 2009 at 11:09 am — Reply

    So, so, sad! I left the store just ten minutes before it went up in flames. As the body count continues to go up, i cant help but shudder with the realization that my body would have been among them.

  3. Ketan
    February 4, 2009 at 5:52 am — Reply

    Nakumatt may or may not be totally to blame. I am sure some level of investigation will reveal the extent to which they are to blame.

    But there are glaring issues that Nairobi and the rest of Kenya needs to face upto:

    1) It is over 10 years since the US Embassy bombing. At that time it was highlighted that the city did not have a disaster plan or specialist disaster team which can co-ordinate search & rescue in any circumstance. Judging from the response (this may be premature) of the emergency crews it was not good.

    2) I understand that some of the fire hydrants were not working i.e no water coming out from the hydrant – Oh my god – – Nairobi City Council and Water Department – wake up! So Fire Engines had to go back to Station to fill up with water – losing valuable firefighting time – come one this is absolutely ridiculous. Do I have to go back to primary school logic and ask “Why have a fire hydrant if no water comes out of it”

    I also understand a few of the Fire Engines were out of commission and not working. Is this for real? Are we to understand that only a few Fire Engines service the whole city? Absolutely ridiculous….at the very least heads should roll all the way to the Cabinet.

    Our brave firefighters deserve our praise – but they also deserve the very best of equipment. Where is all the specialist equipment like oxygen breathing tanks and protective clothing. They are still using equipment dating back decades…How can you expect firefighters to literally fight their way through dense smoke without the proper breathing and extreme heat protective gear. Look at the brave firefighters of 9/11 in New York City – look at what they are issued as standard gear – who are the bureaucrats who have denied our brave firefighters this equipment?

    I cannot believe understand how Nairobi which is a really large city in terms of land area can only have one fire station – that too in the most congested part of the city – the central business district. This has to be an abject failure in town planning and is gross negligence at the highest levels. A city like Nairobi needs 7 or 8 major fire stations strategically located at different parts of the city and it’s suburbs. How can such a glaring failure to act (glaring omission) have continued for so many years. Not only should this have been obvious from the ’98 embassy bombings – this one fire station was appropriate for the Nairobi of the 1950s’. I cannot comprehend that after independence we have still only one fire station in Nairobi.

    3) How can you sell gas cylinders in the middle of town in an enclosed building space. Have you not seen the very reason at petrol stations they are out in the open air caged only by semi wall and barbed wire. It is precisely the reason of their potential fueling further a fire hazard that they are kept in open spaces.

    3) Building code violations. It is very common in Kenya to violate building code – just pay the City Council guy off and you get a clean bill of health!

    Nakumatt Downtown is in a old building – I can bet that certain fire code regulations may not being enforced either by city council officials such as maintenance of fire escape etc. I will leave it to the experts to decide whether installation of sprinklers and other devices within these buildings should be mandatory.

    Being an old building you can see that the building probably lacks modern purpose built fire escapes and safety conscious architecture. That is not the fault of the building or the architect who originally designed it. But safety regulations that presribed for old buildings like this one need to be observed. Period. If not there is negligence somewhere.

    Citizens of Kenya cannot expect that they are paying rates and taxes and the very services that they expect should be there to prevent or mitigate disasters are ahem…not working, out of commission, in state of disrepair….

    This is an abject failure of civic and political leadership on a absolute fundamental right of every citizen to expect health and safety.

    My fear is nothing will be done. The politicians will thump their chests – make speeches saying this and that is bad, those responsible for negligence will not be prosecuted – but most importantly Nairobi will continue to lack a co-ordinated safety plan. Nairobi needs a Safety plan which puts under one department the control of all the emergency services, plans, safety drills and full scale exercises involving all the safety agencies should be run (fire, ambulances, medical response, police etc). These plans need to be rehearsed over and over again. It is not only disasters such as fire that we need to prepare for – we need to prepare for possibilities of terrorist attacks and maybe even earth quakes. For a cosmopolitan city like Nairobi – the Emergency Response system SUCKS!

    Not only does this need to implemented in Nairobi but also Mombasa and all the other major towns and cities of Kenya. But this can only be done by people with the courage and political will – sadly we have a deficit of these in Nairobi and Kenya.

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