Up to 40 killed in Kenya supermarket blaze

January 30th, 2009 - 9:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Nairobi, Jan 30 (DPA) Up to 40 people were believed to have been killed in a supermarket blaze in the Kenyan capital Nairobi as the authorities picked through the ruins Friday, two days after the fire broke out. The Kenyan Red Cross said it had registered the names of 40 missing people - five of them members of staff - and was counselling their families.

The police and the Red Cross were using sniffer dogs to pick through the rubble, and early reports suggested they had uncovered 12 bodies.

One person had already been confirmed dead: a staff member who died of spinal injuries after jumping from the roof of the building.

The fire broke out Wednesday afternoon and quickly engulfed the busy downtown branch of Nakumatt, a popular supermarket chain.

Neighbouring buildings were evacuated as the blaze threatened to spread and a massive crowd gathered, hampering the efforts of firefighters.

Nakumatt Wednesday evening issued a statement saying all of its staff and customers were safe, but the claim now seems to have been premature.

The blaze appeared to break out quickly, trapping many people on the upper floor of the supermarket. Some survivors reported hearing explosions, believed to be from gas cylinders, as the flames raced through the building.

Some eyewitnesses said that the doors to the supermarket were locked to prevent looting as the fire broke out - a charge Nakumatt denies.

The building continued to smoulder all throughout Thursday, sending a spiral of noxious smoke up over the Nairobi rooftops.

Rescue teams were late Thursday still unable to enter the building, but early Friday began the grim task of retrieving the bodies.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in World |