Nakumatt: 16 confirmed dead

Friday January 30 2009

Crime scene investigators go through the debris

Crime scene investigators go through the debris of the burnt down Nakumatt supermarket on Friday. Photo/CHRIS OJOW. 

By ANTHONY KARIUKI

The number of people who died in the Wednesday fire at a Nairobi supermarket has risen to 16.

The operation to retrieve the remains of people that were trapped in the burnt down retail store has so far recovered 16 remains of people.

Police spokesman has confirmed to a Nation journalist the number of the dead. The number is likely to go up as the recovery process goes on.

Police have placed identification marks on the remains.

Dozens are still missing from Wednesday's inferno with Red Cross putting the number at 47. The number includes those confirmed dead.

President Kibaki arrived at the scene at 2.25pm and was taken round by Police Commissioner Hussein Ali.

He was accompanied by Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, Cooperatives minister Joe Nyagah and other government officials.

The President made a short address to the crowd gathered.

"The government will assist the bereaved families in every way we can."

''We also pray that God will help the families who have lost their loved ones. I also call on Kenyans who can assist to do so."

Police at the scene are using sniffer dogs to as they go through the debris.

The supermarket, on Nairobi’s Kenyatta Avenue, caught fire on Wednesday at 2.45pm.

Firefighters battled the inferno, which was fuelled by explosions believed to be from gas cylinders, for hours.

Thick smoke billowed from the buildings and quickly spread to most of Kimathi and Kenyatta Avenue Streets.

On Friday, The Red Cross reported that 47 people, who were either staff of the supermarket or shoppers, were missing.

The emergency relief organisation has erected a tent where distraught relatives reported missing their kin. It also serves as a counselling centre.

Of the 47 missing, five were employees of the retail chain.

“We have registered 40 cases of missing people. Their relatives have been to our tent and we are continuing to counsel them,” the secretary general of the Red Cross Abbas Gullet told the Nation Thursday.

A team from the Red Cross, First Responder-a private firm- and the police are heading the recovery process.

Reported by Dominic Wabala, Ken Ogosia and Anthony Kariuki.