Building Collapse In Kenya Causes Mass Injuries And Death, What’s To Blame?

Friday night a residential building in Nairobi, Kenya, suffered a collapse that left nearly 20 people dead and over 100 people injured. Those numbers are expected to climb as rescue teams continue searching the rubble. Approximately 60 people either visiting or considered residents of the building are still noted as missing.

The building collapse occurred at roughly 9:30 p.m. Friday during incredibly heavy rains. It is the rainy season in Nairobi, Kenya, but even by those standards the rainfall has been extreme, resulting in unsafe conditions caused by landslides and flooding. As it stands, the rains show no signs of stopping. The Jamaican Observer reported that the Red Cross expects that the worst of the rain will be going on for days.

Unfortunately, the majority of the rescue teams working at the site of the building collapse have been forced to work with their hands and small machinery. The streets in that part of Nairobi are narrow and crowded, making bigger machinery difficult or impossible to get to the building site.

Red Cross spokesman Abbas Gullet told KTN that the building had approximately 164 one-room apartments, but they were unsure of how many of those apartments were occupied. It’s also unclear how many people occupied each room. As a result, it’s difficult to tell how many people may still be trapped under the rubble from the collapse.

What rescuers are certain of is that there are still survivors and bodies to recover.

CNN reported that rescue teams are still hearing some screaming and crying among the rubble from the collapse.

“Every time we move some rubble and we hear voices,” Arnolda Shiundu, a Red Cross spokeswoman, said, “it gives the multiagencies that are here the morale to keep on fighting so that we can get as many people — as many survivors as possible.”

“It’s heartbreaking… amongst the rubble you’ve got mattresses strewn around, children’s shoes, pots and pans, photo albums,” Shiundu went on to say about the site of the building collapse.

Charles Owino explained to the press about the status of the building and the possibilities of why it suffered a collapse, according to WGNtv.

“It’s not a new building; it’s an old building, so hopefully the planning department is able to tell us,” he said. “We don’t know how much the heavy rains could have caused the building to fall. There could be other technical reasons.”

According to officials, including Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, the building had been condemned and an order of evacuation for residents was blatantly ignored, reported the International Business Times.

The Kenyan president is having the owners of the building arrested.

The reason for the building collapse is still being investigated, but residents have told various news sources that the collapse did not start from the top of the building, it started from the bottom.

Due to the heavy rains, and the condemned status of the building, it’s possible that the foundation was surrounded by expansive soils.

A paper published by the Missouri University of Science and Technology explains what expansive soils are and what effect the soils can have on a building, especially around the foundation.

“Expansive soils owe their characteristics to the presence of swelling clay minerals. As they get wet, the clay minerals absorb water molecules and expand; conversely, as they dry they shrink, leaving large voids in the soil. Swelling clays can control the behavior of virtually any type of soil if the percentage of clay is more than about 5 percent by weight. Soils with smectite clay minerals, such as montmorillonite, exhibit the most profound swelling properties.”

Although the investigation might turn up something different, the fact that the building collapse began at the bottom does point to the possibility the problem was most likely in the foundation.

[Photo by AP Photo/Sayyid Abdul Azim]