The Chinese firm constructing a Ksh1.2 billion ($11.5 million) bridge that mysteriously collapsed on Monday in western region of Budalang’i has accepted responsibility for the mishap.
Chinese Overseas Construction and Engineering Company Project Manager Jerome Xzue Hua told the Nation the company's engineers are baffled by the incident.
However, Mr Hua defended the company against claims that it did not adhere to required bridge-building standards. “This is very unusual because all the standards and specifications required by the employer were met,” he said.
“We have experienced engineers and we are equally baffled by what happened. We hope to find the root cause of the problem and rectify the matter.”
His comments came on Monday evening after the collapse set social media on fire, with Kenyans expressing their displeasure with the contractor’s work.
According to Mr Hua, the bridge, whose cost is now likely to shoot up, can be repaired.
President Kenyatta, during his campaign tour of the region two weeks ago, promised residents that the bridge would be in use from next month.
This is unlikely to happen given that July is less than a week away.
Witnesses told the Nation that the bridge across River Nzoia began shaking before the middle slab collapsed. The bridge consists of three spans — 25 metres at both ends and 50 metres in the middle.
Budalang'i MP Ababu Namwamba, the area lawmaker, described the incident as “catastrophic”.
“I want to express my deep sympathy to all those who were injured in the mishap. I want to wish them a quick recovery,” he said.
He revealed that he consulted with President Kenyatta over the issue, and that the Head of State assured him of the government’s determination to complete the project.
“The government has also undertaken to foot all the medical bills of those injured,” Mr Namwamba said. “The dream for the Sigiri Bridge still lives on. Nothing will dampen this spirit.”
He called on investigative agencies to hasten their inquiry and find the root cause of the incident. The MP also seemed to support claims that the bridge may have been deliberately undermined.
“We cannot rule out economic sabotage, especially after the Standard Gauge Railway was once targeted,” he said. “I want to rebuke those characters that may want to use this incident to gain political mileage.”
He criticised National Super Alliance leader Raila Odinga, an ally-turned-foe, for playing politics with the collapse. “Let him not play politics with development and the lives of our people,” he said.
On Monday, Mr Odinga, speaking in the western town of Bondo, Siaya County, urged President Kenyatta to take responsibility for the collapse.
He claimed the project was conceived by the Grand Coalition government, in which he was prime minister, but was rushed by the Jubilee regime at the expense of the safety of residents.