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Building collapses in Kenya

Aid workers said hopes were fading of finding more survivors in the rubble of a collapsed building in Kenya’s capital yesterday, as the death toll reached 21.

Police said they were questioning the owner of the six-storey residential block that collapsed late on Friday after days of heavy rain and floods, but no one had been charged.

Residents and rescue workers have been sifting through piles of broken concrete at the site in the eastern Huruma suburb ever since, rescuing 135 people, according to the latest police figures.

But conditions were getting more challenging, Kenya Red Cross told Reuters.

“In conditions of no air, dirt, no food, no water, it’s very difficult for that person to stay alive,” Red Cross official Anthony Mwangi said.

Authorities had condemned the 198-room building and there has been no official explanation of why it remained occupied.

Government critics say corruption is rampant and real estate developers often violate construction codes to minimize costs, with little or no penalties from authorities.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who visited the site of the collapse, told officials “to undertake an immediate survey of all the houses in the area to find out those which are at risk of collapsing”.

He also ordered the arrest of the owners of the building, which had been condemned by the authorities.

“Those people who have died in Huruma have died an unnecessary death. That death is a product of corruption. And that is what we must fight in Nairobi,” legislator Johnson Sakaja said during Labour Day celebrations in the capital.

“Search and rescue operations are ongoing to rescue survivors that may still be trapped under the rubble,” it said.

Neither the Kenya Red Cross nor the National Disaster Operation Centre – which is leading the rescue operation – would be drawn into giving an estimate of how many people may still be under the rubble.

On Saturday, Nairobi County Deputy Governor Jonathan Mueke said the building that collapsed, and several others in the area, had been put up without their approval.

Heavy rains have led to building collapses in the past in poor neighborhoods of the Kenyan capital, which residents have usually blamed on shoddy or illegal construction.

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