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Nairobi, Kenya, Building Collapse Leaves at Least 12 Dead, More Than 130 Injured

NAIROBI, Kenya — A six-story residential building collapsed in heavy rain in Nairobi, killing 12 people and injuring at least 134, Kenyan officials said Saturday.

Police Inspector General Joseph Boinnet ordered the owner of the building to surrender himself to the police for questioning.

The building did not have an occupancy permit, which is a government requirement for all buildings, said Stephen Oundo, the chairman of the National Construction Authority.

The Kenya Red Cross said 150 building units and adjacent homes were affected. Rescuers said they could hear voices of five people trapped in the building and said it will be difficult to remove the concrete slabs using heavy machinery without endangering those stuck in the rubble, said nominated legislator Johnson Sakaja.

Live TV footage showed the National Youth Service and firefighters removing stones by hand and a crowd cheering as a child was removed from the rubble. President Uhuru Kenyatta visited the scene.

Hours-long traffic jams caused by flooded roads delayed rescue teams trying to reach the scene, said Japheth Koome, Nairobi's police chief said. The 134 injured were rescued from the rubble, Koome said. Kenya is in the midst of its April-May rainy season.

Jacob Kiruma, who said he lived in the house adjacent to the one that collapsed, said the building was constructed "shoddily." The structure had been built in less than five months and the 126 single rooms were quickly occupied at a rent of $35 a month, Kiruma said.

Area legislator Stephen Kariuki said this was the second building to collapse in a year. He blamed the county government of failing to follow through with demolitions of buildings that were identified as unfit for human habitation.

Image: A general view shows rescue workers searching for residents feared trapped in the rubble of a six-storey building that collapsed after days of heavy rain, in Nairobi, Kenya
Rescue workers search for trapped residents in the rubble of a six-story building that collapsed after days of heavy rain in Nairobi, Kenya, on April 30. Gregory Orlando / Reuters

Taking advantage of a high demand for housing in Nairobi, some property developers bypass building regulations to cut costs and maximize profits.

President Kenyatta last year ordered an audit of all the buildings in the country to see if they are up to code after eight buildings collapsed, killing at least 15 people. The report from the audit by the National Construction Authority found that 58 percent of buildings in the capital were unfit to live in. The majority of Nairobi's 4 million people live in low-income areas or slums.

The heavy rains have caused other fatalities. Four people died when a wall collapsed Friday in the affluent Hurlingham area and two people drowned when they were swept away by flood waters in the capital's industrial area, said Nairobi police chief Koome.