Kenyan govt sets up humanitarian fund for victims of fires

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Nairobi - The Kenyan government has established a humanitarian fund for the victims of the Molo and Nakumatt fire tragedies, which have so far claimed 140 lives, with more than 123 other victims hospitalised.

Making the announcement on Tuesday, President Mwai Kibaki said the fund would cater for hospital bills, especially for patients requiring long-term hospitalisation and medical care and those who might require further treatment.

The fund, the president said, would also offer related humanitarian assistance and where necessary further medical attention.

He noted with deep regret that the tragic events of the Nakumatt and Salgaa fires occurring in a span of one week claimed breadwinners and promising youth who were key pillars of hope to their relatives and friends.

In a press conference outside his Harambee House office in Nairobi, the Head of State named Naushad Merali as the Fund Chairman to co-ordinate a major fundraising and prayer service to be held on 10 February at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre.

"The details of the bank accounts to which Kenyans can make their contributions will soon be made public," said President Kibaki, who appealed to Kenyans of all walks of life to respond with the generosity they have always demonstrated.

He particularly appealed to leaders, the public service, the business community and members of civil society, to come forward and make contributions in solidarity with those who are suffering following the two disasters coming close together.

The president, on behalf of the government and himself, once again sent a message of condolence to the families, relatives and friends of all those who lost their loved ones in the two fire disasters.

President Kibaki cut short his visit to Addis Ababa as the one-week National Mourning announced by the government took effect in solidarity with victims of the two fire disasters.

Victims of the oil tanker tragedy at Molo will be buried in a mass grave at Sachang'wan in Molo district next week on Monday.

Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner Hassan Noor Hassan said of the 123 confirmed dead, 89 were burnt beyond recognition.

Addressing a Provincial Burial Committee, Mr Noor said the burial site had been identified and plans were at advanced stage to prepare the grave for the mass burial. Those willing to bury their loved ones may go ahead and do so.

The committee observed that the bodies would be labelled, preserved and put in special bags before burial in case of exhumation orders in future.

In Nairobi, DNA tests to help families identify the remains of their loved ones from the Nakumatt supermarket fire tragedy began Tuesday at the city mortuary.

Family and friends of the victims of the Nakumatt fire tragedy camped at the mortuary to identify the remains of their loved ones.

Nakumatt Holdings, the owner of the supermarket, has offered to pay the cost of the all DNA tests that will be carried out to ascertain the identity of the charred bodies. It has announced that it will cover part of the funereal expenses for the deceased.

The retail chain's operations director, Thiagarajan Ramamurthy, said last week the company had put in place proper measures to deal with disasters - such as the fire - in all their branches, to curb the occurrence of such incidents in future.

The fire at Nakumatt supermarket started shortly before 3pm last Wednesday. At the fire scene, recovery efforts were still on as remains of two more bodies were retrieved Monday from the debris.