Image: Site of Nairobi blaze
Khalil Senosi  /  AP
Rescue workers go through the debris at the burned-out Nakumatt supermarket in Nairobi on Friday.
updated 1/30/2009 3:21:48 PM ET 2009-01-30T20:21:48

Twenty-five people were confirmed dead and others were still missing Friday, two days after a massive fire swept through a supermarket in downtown Nairobi, officials said.

Thiagarajan Ramamurthy, operations director of the Nakumatt supermarket chain, confirmed the death toll.

"I have been briefed that 25 bodies have been taken to the mortuary," he said.

Joseph Mwangi, spokesman for Kenya's Disaster Management Center, said earlier that 47 people have been reported missing since the blaze, which started at midday when the streets were packed with people.

Thousands streamed out of nearby buildings as plumes of black smoke billowed into the air. Gas canisters that popped like gunshots fueled the fire.

Rescue workers continued sifting through the rubble Friday. The debris has continued to smolder, making it difficult to properly search parts of the store, police said. The authorities also enlisted a bomb squad to ensure there were no gas canisters remaining inside.

Authorities have said an electrical fault might be to blame for the fire.

Response criticized
Ann Wanaina, 39, said she has not heard from her 23-year-old sister, Angela, since Wednesday afternoon.

"I am praying hard for her well-being," Wanaina told The Associated Press. "Her phone is off, which never happens."

Local newspapers accused firefighters of a shoddy response to the blaze. The Daily Nation said Nairobi's 3 million people are served by just one fire station situated close to a traffic-choked business district.

"Ours is a modern city with an 18th-century firefighting infrastructure," the newspaper said in an editorial.

More on: Kenya

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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