Deaths feared in Nakumatt inferno

Dozens are feared dead after a fierce fire destroyed a popular supermarket in Nairobi’s central business district. However, there has been no official confirmation on dead or missing persons.

The Nakumatt Downtown fire captured as it began on the afternoon of Wednesday 28th January, 2008. Picture by Leah Shagam N'Diaye
The Nakumatt Downtown flames captured as they began on the afternoon of Wednesday 28th January, 2008.

Crowds at the scene and relatives of the missing are convinced that people were trapped in the fire. The downtown supermarket had two levels of shopping floor usually packed with people.

The fire began and spread rapidly. A survivor told Kenyan radio that she barely squeezed out of the narrow supermarket doors before hearing a loud explosion inside, followed by thick smoke.

Thick smoke coming out of the Nakumatt Downtown building in Nairobi. Picture by The Nakumatt Downtown fire captured as it began on the afternoon of Wednesday 28th January, 2008. Picture by Leah Shagam N'Diaye
Thick smoke coming out of the Nakumatt Downtown building in Nairobi.

So intense was the fire that smoke is still billowing out of the ruins almost 30 hours after the fire began on Wednesday afternoon. Meanwhile, Kenyan authorities have been criticized for being ill-prepared to deal with disaster.

Fire engines from the Nairobi City Council, Kenya Airforce, Kenya Airports Authority and private firms all ran out of water. Fire hydrants in the Kenyan capital long fell into disuse and fire trucks had to get water from Nyayo Stadium and Ngara. Both locations are 3 km away from the disaster along streets clogged with traffic.

The fire is believed to have been caused by an electrical fault. Eyewitnesses say a Kenya Power and Lighting transformer malfunctioned just behind Nakumatt Downtown moments before an explosion. Power fluctuations are common in Kenya and have caused great damage but never on the scale witnessed at this moment.

Considering that the building is still on fire, it is highly unlikely that bodies could have survived the heat and will pose serious challenges during identification.

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6 Responses

  1. We all are sorrowful for the great tragedy that occurred on Wednesday at the Nakumatt Downtown. To all those directly and indirectly affected, we send our prayers. Still this is a wake up call to all the people and the government and the City council in particular; are we ever ready to fight such calamities? Issues of floods, inferno, famine, epidemics and wars always get us off guard. Can’t we ever learn anything from the past?

  2. It’s a grief sorrow for everyone here in kenya especially for those who lost their relatives. May Gosd opens your door and extend with showers of blessing for the painful in hearts

  3. The blame on the damage caused by the fire in Nakumatt Downtow can be to various stakeholders. First of all, the government failed to ensure that enough facilities were there not only to put off the fire but also to rescue the survivors. In such a disaster I expected Kenya Army and Air force to take effective measures to rescue our fellow Kenyans who endured great pain during their death. Secondly, the Nakumatt management team can be blamed for failure to provide enough exits. Thirdly, the Kenya can be blamed if only the fire emanated from transformer. Lastly, we the public we can be blamed for crowding the area of the disaster hence inconviniencing the rescuers. We should all take part incase of a disaster. Those who lost their beloved relatives and friends, may God be with you in this time of deep sorrow.

    • It is so sad and my heart is with those who may have lost their loved ones. May God be with you. Secondly, it is NOT acceptable to anyone that Nairobi City with all the resources under the County Govt. does not have effective fire fighting equipment. To the National Govt. what a shame that there is no disaster response mechanism in this country with all the expertise that there is in terms of human resource. The Cabinet Secretary and Governor needs to wake up. Dr. Nyamoh

  4. sad sad sad day 4 Kenya

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