19 dead, scores hurt in Kenya heavy rains

COLLAPSE: Dozens of people are feared trapped or dead after this six-story building collapsed in Nairobi, Kenya (Reuters)
Updated 30 April 2016
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19 dead, scores hurt in Kenya heavy rains

NAIROBI: A six-story residential building collapsed in heavy rain in Nairobi, killing 12 people and injuring scores, Kenyan officials said Saturday.
Rescuers in the Kenyan capital made desperate efforts to free survivors including a woman and child trapped in the building.
Seven other people died in floods elsewhere in Nairobi, including four killed when a wall collapsed.
“Ten bodies have been recovered, and we have 80 people who have been treated and discharged from hospital,” Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery told reporters amid the wreckage of the building.
“There is a lady in the building and her child who are alive, and all efforts are being made to rescue them, as well as other people still believed to be in the building,” Nkaissery said.
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 rubbled, 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.
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.
President Uhuru Kenyatta visited the wreck of the six-story building on Saturday, where 10 people perished after concrete floors collapsed down on top of each other during torrential rainstorms on Friday.
The two-year-old building, home to more than over 150 families, had been condemned by building authorities but the order had been ignored.
But access for rescuers with larger machinery has been made difficult by the narrow and crowded streets.
One survivor was pulled from the huge pile of debris shortly after dawn, Kenya Red Cross said, some 10 hours after the building collapsed Friday night.
Pictures broadcast by local media showed soldiers, policemen and civilians searching through the rubble.
Kenyatta “braved the rainy and chilly weather” to visit densely-populated and poor Huruma neighborhood, a statement from the presidency said.
He ordered police “take immediate action to identify and arrest owners of buildings who have ignored directives by the National Construction Authority,” it said.


Zimbabwe president to return home after deadly turmoil

Police patrol in Harare, Zimbabwe, January 20, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 55 min 56 sec ago
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Zimbabwe president to return home after deadly turmoil

  • A year of troubles in which his administration failed to improve the collapsed economy, narrowly won a disputed election and violently put down anti-government protests has caused widespread concern

HARARE, Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe’s president announced on Sunday that he will return home and skip the World Economic Forum after a week of turmoil in which activists have said at least a dozen people have been killed in a government crackdown.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa had been under growing pressure to come home from a two-week overseas visit as accounts emerged of abuses by security forces, including dozens of people wounded by gunfire and others hunted down in their homes and severely beaten.
Zimbabwe has seen days of unrest since Mnangagwa made an announcement more than doubling fuel prices that made the struggling country’s gasoline the most expensive in the world.
Mnangagwa in his Twitter post didn’t mention the violence, saying only that he is returning “in light of the economic situation.”
The first priority, he said, “is to get Zimbabwe calm, stable and working again.”
At Davos, he planned to appeal for foreign investment and loans to the southern African nation, but the visit had been expected to be a challenge. His Davos visit a year ago came shortly after he took over from longtime, repressive leader Robert Mugabe, a move cheered by Zimbabweans and the international community.
A year of troubles in which his administration failed to improve the collapsed economy, narrowly won a disputed election and violently put down anti-government protests has caused widespread concern.
Growing frustration over rising inflation, a severe currency crisis and fuel lines that stretch for miles finally snapped after Mnangagwa announced the fuel price increase.
Civic leaders called for Zimbabweans to stay at home for three days in protest. Other people took to the streets. Some looted, in desperation or anger. The military was called in, and with Mnangagwa overseas, the hard-line former military commander and Vice President Constantino Chiwenga was left in charge. A crackdown began.
More than 600 people have been arrested, among them a prominent pastor and activist, Evan Mawarire, who has supported peaceful protests on social media and now faces a possible 20 years in prison on a subversion charge. More than 400 people have been denied bail, said his lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa. She said she will apply for bail at the High Court Monday. She said described the case against Mawarire as a “travesty of justice.”
Mawarire has called it “heartbreaking” to see the new government acting like that of former leader Mugabe, who stepped down under military pressure in late 2017 and was succeeded by former protege Mnangagwa.
In what critics have called an attempt to cover up abuses, the government in the past few days has imposed an Internet shutdown across the country. On Monday, the High Court will hear a case challenging the Internet restrictions. Although access to the Internet is back, social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp are still blocked.
Jacob Mafume, spokesman for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party, said Mnangagwa’s return “was long overdue, in the first place he was not supposed to travel abroad when the country was burning from the economic and political crisis. ... However, we don’t have confidence that his return will solve anything unless he opens lines of communication. What is needed is political dialogue but Mnangagwa has been avoiding us.”
The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference last week lamented the government’s “intolerant handling of dissent” and its failure to halt economic collapse, concluding that “our country is going through one of the most trying periods in its history.”